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New Mexico doctors and patients will get more education about the perils of prescription painkillers under a set of rules approved Friday by the New Mexico Medical Board.
The rules call for doctors licensed by the board, who have a federal Drug Enforcement Administration prescriber’s license for opioids, to take five hours of continuing education about pain management before June 30, 2014, and five hours of training before each license renewal after that. The classes will include lessons on the pharmacology and risks of controlled substances, and information about the problems of abuse, addiction and diversion of medicine. This is the first time the board has required doctors to take continuing education courses in a specific area.
The rules also call for doctors with new patients to look at the past year of a patient’s medical records through state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before prescribing certain painkillers. Every six months, doctors will review the prescription histories of patients who are on long-term opioids.
The steps are part of the state’s fight against opioid abuse, which some in the medical community say has become an epidemic. From 2001 to 2010, opioid sales in New Mexico rose 131 percent. Overdose deaths, too, have increased in the past decade. The rate of overdoses from all drugs, including illegal substances, in 2011 was 25.9 deaths per 100,000 residents — among the highest in the United States, according to the Department of Health.
One medical board member said the move is a good step.
“Our hope is that this will raise awareness amongst providers that they first of all should be educated about this problem of opioid abuse and diversion but also about how to treat chronic pain,” said Steven Jenkusky, a psychiatrist and medical director for the Behavioral Health Service Line at Presbyterian Healthcare Services.
“The other goal is to promote the use of the pharmacy monitoring program to help prevent doctor shopping and better coordination of care to make sure patients aren’t going from one provider to another and obtaining excessive amounts of opioid that could result in an overdose,” he said after the board unanimously agreed to the changes.
As for patient education, current regulations call for doctors to discuss the benefits and risks of controlled substances with a patient. The approved rules require chronic-pain patients being treated with painkillers to sign an agreement with doctors confirming the patient’s responsibility with the drugs, including safeguarding the pills from others. The new rules also call for doctors to document their discussion with patients about the drugs.
Representatives of the New Mexico Medical Society and the Greater Albuquerque Medical Association spoke at the meeting, mostly in favor of the proposed changes.
“We do have a drug-overdose problem in New Mexico, but this is not just a physician problem,” said H. Diane Snyder, executive director of the Albuquerque Medical Association. Snyder said everyone involved will benefit from the additional training, including patients.
A few doctors said they feared the rules were too broad and might end up punishing doctors who are judiciously prescribing painkillers to patients who need them.
Records from the New Mexico Medical Board show few doctors in the state have faced discipline for overprescribing. Since 2007, the board has dealt with 22 cases of injudicious prescribing. In one case, it revoked a license; two licenses were voluntarily surrendered. Doctors have faced a variety of actions by the board, including letters of reprimand.
Randy Marshall, executive director of the Medical Society, said he was glad to see the issue being decided by the Medical Board, not the Legislature. A failed measure this session would have involved lawmakers putting limits on opioid prescriptions and refills.
About 25 people attended the meeting, including one patient who spoke about the proposal.
Vince Griego, a victim of a hit-and-run accident in Santa Fe in 2004, testified that his doctor overprescribed several different painkillers that he took for years, but he later quit cold turkey.
He said he hoped to bring a message of hope to others in the same situation — that they can quit, as well.
Griego also said he hoped to warn of how big the problem with drug abuse and overdose has become.
“More and more people are dying, including those who are rich and famous,” he said. “If the time isn’t now, when is this going to end?”
Contact Kate Nash at 986-3036 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @katenashnm.
You can tell its become a big problem just by the fact that there are now pretty much advertisements for buprenorphine treatment running on tv now. The people on them say "I gotta get help for my addiction to opioids" and then the voice over says get treatment in private setting without having to visit a clinic daily or something like that and then refer you to "turntohelp.com" which is pretty much a sight that will find you a sub doctor in your area. I was realy suprised when I started seeing that commercial
-------------------- "I just need to check inside ya asshole SIR.... Asshole clear!"
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