MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Leaders of the state’s medical school programs are applauding the federal initiative to lower the opioid addiction rate across the country.
“I think you want the best and most qualified people to prescribe these medications and follow people so you’re sure you’re not just creating people who are addicted to the drug versus people who are really getting relief credibly,” Clay Marsh, the Vice President and Executive Dean of Health Sciences at WVU, said on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.
Marsh and Joseph Shapiro, Dean of the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, agree education on prescribing opioids is a must.
“It’s important that we start with our students while they’re in medical school to teach them to respect these narcotic pain relievers as the potentially dangerous drugs that they are.”
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines encouraging doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners to voluntarily try alternative treatment for patients opposed to prescriptions for narcotics.
“Even Tylenol along with physical therapy or mindfulness or other approaches that might relieve pain might be equally as beneficial to reduce the pain and much safer related to the lack of dependency we see,” explained Marsh.
In 2013, the CDC reported health-care providers wrote 249 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication.
According to Shapiro, part of licensure requirements in West Virginia is a course on opiate prescribing. The CDC’s 12 guidelines, although voluntary for physicians to follow, will help with the prescription pill addiction epidemic.
“We’ve had to develop changes in the way we’ve been teaching our prescribers. At least, we believe we’ve had to because doctors have been, albeit passively complicit in this epidemic, still part of the problem.”
Both medical school leaders suggest teaching alternative treatment methods and encouraging doctors to prescribe limited, lowest effective dosages and fewer prescription pain killers for pain in each prescription.
WVU and Marshall are on board with a White House directive for all medical schools to pledge to immediately incorporate new guidelines in curriculum for how to prescribe the powerful pain medications.
In 2014, more than half of the drug overdoses resulting in deaths in West Virginia were related to either hydrocodone or oxycodone.