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Pa. physicians writing fewer opioid prescriptions

Pennsylvania’s physicians are writing fewer opioid prescriptions while increasing their usage of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, according to the 2019 Opioid Progress Report.

The report, released June 6 by the American Medical Association, a national association of physicians, showed that the number of opioid prescriptions written in the state dropped 43 percent between 2013 and 2018, the fifth-largest drop nationally.

The report showed state-by-state figures for prescriptions written as well as the number of providers who have registered for their state’s prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs, which collect information on all filled prescriptions for controlled substances.

The drugs being monitored through Pennsylvania’s PDMP include pain medications such as oxycodone and codeine, anxiety medications such as diazepam, and certain cold medicines like Robitussin AC.

Pennsylvania physicians are required to register for the PDMD in order to give physicians and other medical prescribers a tool to ensure their patients aren’t seeking additional opioids elsewhere.

“Pennsylvania’s PDMP has basically stopped doctor shopping and allowed physicians to more easily identify patients who may have a substance-use disorder,” Dr. John Gallagher, chair of the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s opioid task force, said in a news release.

In addition to the PDMP, Gallagher credits physician education for the decrease.

Physicians completed continuing medical education courses more than 700,000 times in 2018, an increase of 150,000 from 2017, according to the American Medical Association.

“This data shows that steps taken by the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Wolf administration are helping the medical community make progress in fighting this crisis,” Gallagher said.  “The desperately needed next step is a concerted effort to expand access to high-quality care for substance use disorders.”

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