The work comp industry is a relatively small universe and one where a lot of us are very familiar with each other. So I am sure that a lot of you who read this blog received the same email recently from Phil LeFevre of the Work Loss Data Institute. Perhaps the most notable work that this organization does is with the Official Disability Guidelines (ODG) with which we at PRIUM utilize on a daily basis.
LeFevre’s email begins with the line, “I’ll sum up the statistics on opioids in two words: Ruined Lives.” The purpose of his email was to promote ODG’s Opioid Flyer (found here) and at the same time raise continued awareness for the epidemic our industry and this country is currently facing. ODG are of course evidence based guidelines and Michael Gavin has written on this same page a handful of times about how important it is to utilize evidence based medicine as a baseline for care.
But what struck a chord with me and what compelled me to want to share my thoughts is the passion and frustration that shows through in the way in which it was written. This is the same passion and frustration I know that a lot of us share on a daily basis when dealing with this issue. An issue that is front and center in our little corner of the world, and one where the problem is well documented everywhere else, but yet the adherence and desire to work together to combat the opioid epidemic is surprisingly lacking in our society.
It pains me to know that Missouri still does not see the necessity of having a prescription drug monitoring program. It is frustrating that there are still physicians out there passing out painkiller prescriptions to patients’ outstretched hands as if Rx Halloween comes once a month. Especially considering the well documented cases of bad actors like Dr. Lisa Tseng who was arrested on murder charges and linked to at least 19 overdose deaths; or that of Dr. Rolando Lodevico Atiga who was arrested after writing a prescription for an opioid and a muscle relaxant to an undercover agent who presented him with an x-ray showing injuries to the neck and back … of a dog.
Perhaps what motivates me (and comforts me) is the fact that there are those willing to raise their hand when the questions is posed: What are we going to do? Dr. Andrew Kolodny, President of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) is one such individual taking action against this epidemic. This group’s mission? “To reduce morbidity and mortality resulting from prescribing of opioids and to promote cautious, safe and responsible opioid practices.” We need individuals and organizations like this and we need more calls to action like the one that was expressed in Phil LeFevre’s email. And this is the advice given to the readers about the opioid flyer: “Share it, save it, print it, tape it to the wall if it helps you, your MPN providers, or your loved ones.”
That’s good advice because if you needed a reminder - this IS an epidemic and it is one that dwarfs the size of any we have seen in this country. Prescription drugs are now responsible for more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. But the transformation of this industry even in just the last couple of years to recognize this issue is commendable. And there is definitely a long way to go and a lot more that needs to be done, but every small effort like forwarding an email or typing up a blog rant is a step in the right direction.
Scott E Yasko
On Twitter @PRIUM1
On Twitter @PRIUM1