NHRMC reports fewer opioids prescribed since guidelines change

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The New Hanover Regional Medical Center health system and Physician Group changed opioid prescribing guidelines in 2017. In the second year, the number of prescribed pills dropped by nearly 27-percent, resulting in more than 1.1 million fewer pills, according to a news release from NHRMC.

“We haven’t solved the opioid problem in our community, but after two years we continue to see positive results,” said Dr. Kevin Cannon, Chair of NHRMC Opioid Task Force. “We are grateful to the physicians, pharmacists and nurses who have helped support this important effort, and to the patients for seeing the value in our approach.”

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New prescribing policies went into effect on October 12, 2017, when the Medical Executive Committee adopted guidelines that encouraged physicians to balance safe and effective pain-management.

This resulted in opioids being prescribed less often, for less duration and with fewer pills. It also promoted more use of non-opioid therapy.

In the two years since the change, the number of opioid pills has been reduced by 23 percent. The number of patients prescribed opioid alternatives has increased by more than 700 percent, reflecting the intentional shift to treating pain differently.

Prescriptions for Naloxone, which can reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose, continue to increase and were up to 783 in year two, an increase of 360 percent from the baseline.