AHRQ’s Health Care Innovations Exchange Focuses on Addressing Opioid Misuse

The March 12, 2014 issue of AHRQ’s Health Care Innovations Exchange features three profiles about programs aimed at reducing opioid misuse and its associated health and safety consequences. One of the featured profiles describes a protocol used by emergency department (ED) and urgent care clinicians in Maine to reduce opioid prescriptions for patients suspected of abusing controlled substances. The protocol recommends that physicians make a comprehensive effort to verify the patient’s recent medication history, decline (except in rare cases) to refill prescriptions for controlled substances that patients claim were lost or stolen, and avoid prescribing controlled substances to patients with a history of taking such medications for pain management. The protocol has significantly reduced the proportion of ED patients complaining of dental pain (a common complaint used by those who abuse controlled substances) who are prescribed opioids, which in turn has led to fewer such patients presenting to the ED. The Health Care Innovations Exchange includes additional profiles and tools related to opioid prescribing and misuse.