Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mandatory Education for Prescribers

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the deans of state's four medical schools are teaming up to educate medical school students about misuse and abuse of opioids.  Boston University, Tufts University, Harvard University, and the University of Mass. will collaborate to develop a curriculum around pain management that balances the need for pain relief with the risks of opioid addiction.  As far as I can tell, this effort is the first of its kind in the nation.

A week before this announcement from Mass., Dr. Douglas Grant, registrar of the college of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, told a Canadian audience of doctors that physicians should be subject to mandatory continuing medical education in the appropriate prescribing of opioids.

"With respect to opioids, there's been in my view a general loss of awareness, a growing casual attitude about the risks of these medications," he said.  He also noted there's been a shift in expectations among patients to be not only treated for pain, but to be pain-free.  "That's created a positive feedback loop which I think has led to the present rates of high prescribing," said Grant, observing that Canada now exhibits the second highest per capita usage of prescription opioids in the world.

Yeah, we're still #1 here in the U.S.

Some observations in light of these recommendations:

  1. A Canadian study suggests that veterinarians still receive 5X the number of hours of pain management training than physicians.  
  2. The American Medical Association (AMA) task force on opioid prescribing has been weak thus far in its recommendations.  
  3. The voluntary educational programs available today are valuable, but they're only capturing the good docs that have a sincere desire to do this right and make the time to learn best practices. 

If we're going to make real and rapid progress in the fight against prescription drug misuse and abuse, the AMA needs to get behind mandatory prescriber education.  Now.  

On Twitter @PRIUM1

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