WomanandDoctorAcross the country prescription painkillers take out way more people than heroin and cocaine combined…  and the story is the same in Arizona.  Last year more than one person died almost every day in our state from prescription opioids… and more people died from painkiller overdoses than car crashes.  In January, I blogged about how we’ve joined the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials challenge to reduce prescription drug abuse and deaths 15% by 2015.

We’ve been working with partners from the Arizona Prescription Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative to develop strategies to reduce prescription drugs deaths. One of the most effective ways to tackle the problem is to reduce the amount of drugs available – there are too many drugs in people’s hands. The Arizona Prescription Drug Monitoring Program shows almost 524 million painkiller pills prescribed in Arizona every year (almost 100 per person per year).  In 2011 we ranked 5th highest in the country for prescribing opioids.

To confront the challenge, we hosted a summit in March to gather input from doctors, pharmacists, hospitals and many more healthcare partners to define guidelines for prescribing opioids.  We finished the draft guidelines this week and are looking for the public and professionals input before we finalize them. The guidelines address prescribing for the treatment of chronic pain that isn’t tied to cancer or someone who is dying and for treatment of acute pain – like after surgery or an injury.  We hope you can time some time to review and give us your feedback by July 12th.

Also, when we overhauled our licensing rules, we included a provision for many types of licensed healthcare facilities to have a policy about prescribing controlled substances to reduce chances of substance misuse. Those go into effect next week.

I want to thank everyone for their help in creating the guidelines – especially Sheila Sjolander- who has been providing tremendous leadership in this effort.