MMS Prescriber Education: 17,063 courses, 5,905 individuals
MMS has engaged in many efforts to address the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth, from creating prescribing guidelines to public information campaigns for patients. One of the major contributions of the Society – and one of the critical steps in alleviating the crisis as MMS President James S. Gessner, M.D. has noted — has been prescriber education.
MMS began offering free continuing medical education courses in opioids and pain management to all prescribers beginning in May of last year, and demand for the courses has been high.
Over the 14-month period from May 26, 2015, when the free courses were first offered, through August 1, 2016, a total of 17,063 courses have been completed by 5,905 individuals. Currently, 18 courses are offered.
The courses appear to be having a positive impact, as multiple studies show that opioid prescribing has declined significantly in the state.
A study by athenahealth showed that the number of patients in Massachusetts who were prescribed opioids between the first and second quarter of 2016 dropped 14 percent, compared to an 8 percent decline for the rest of the nation. Another study, released in June by the Cambridge-based Workers Compensation Research Institute, recorded decreases in the amount of opioids prescribed per worker’s compensations claims in the Commonwealth as well as many other states.
Finally, a Massachusetts Department of Public Health report, issued on August 3, noted that data from the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring program showed that the total number of opioid Schedule II prescriptions and the number of individuals receiving Schedule II prescriptions were both at their lowest levels since the first quarter of 2015. DPH said that the number of individuals who received one or more prescriptions for opioids dropped 16 percent from the first quarter of 2015 to the second quarter of 2016.
Despite the decline in prescription medications, deaths from opioid overdoses continue to rise, fueled by the synthetic opioid, fentanyl. DPH reported that 66 percent of confirmed opioid-related overdoses deaths so far in 2016 involved fentanyl, an increase over 2015, when the rate was 57 percent.