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San Diego Hospitals Adopt New Painkiller Policy

— San Diego and Imperial County hospitals have a new policy aimed at curbing the epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse. Patients going to emergency departments will feel the difference.

Aired 9/13/13 on KPBS News.

Patients hoping to score prescription painkillers from San Diego and Imperial County hospital emergency departments need to think again.

Health officials say the problem of prescription painkiller abuse has gotten out of hand.

Dr. Eric McDonald, San Diego County's deputy public health officer, said 269 San Diegans died of prescription drug overdoses last year.

"For every death, there are 20 people coming into emergency departments, there are hundreds of people that are actually abusing prescription pain medicines," McDonald said.

Under the new voluntary guidelines, emergency departments will no longer dispense 30-day-supplies of narcotics like Vicodin.

And they won't prescribe long-term painkillers like OxyContin, either.

Scripps Mercy Hospital's Dr. Roneet Lev explained why.

"Those are especially dangerous, more dangerous than the short-acting medications," Lev said. "And in someone who comes to the emergency department, a broken bone, a ruptured appendix, anything like that, you don't need long-acting pain prescriptions, you need something for short term."

Lev said people who legitimately suffer from chronic pain need to get their drugs from their regular doctor, not emergency departments.

"And our policy is not to refill prescriptions, and not to give prescriptions for someone who's getting them elsewhere," Lev said. "The safe way about it is to have one provider, and one pharmacy, for any pain prescriptions. And we're going to honor that."

Prescription drug overdoses are the No. 1 cause of accidental death in San Diego County.

Comments

Avatar for user 'LadyLJ5748'

LadyLJ5748 | September 13, 2013 at 6:12 p.m. ― 10 months, 2 weeks ago

It is interesting that death from prescription drugs is the #1 cause of accidental death in San Diego County. If I am understanding that statistic correctly that means in the last 12 months there have been few than 269 deaths from car accidents, drowning, poisonings and/or heat stroke. Somehow that number does not make sense to me.

Also, as a person who questions everything, were these deaths caused by prescriptions written in Emergency Rooms or, as I suspect, at least half of them from elderly patients that have multiple doctors? And were they all from improper use of pain medication?

It sounds like the county task force needed to take some action to justify it's own existence. Unfortunately it comes at the cost of the huge number of people who have conditions, such as allergies, and diseases, such as RA, that can "flare" on a weekend while their primary physician is not available or they cannot get an appointment with their doctor for up to eight weeks. It's sad to think that these people who set this policy will probably never realize the human suffering they will be causing.

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | September 14, 2013 at 7:32 a.m. ― 10 months, 2 weeks ago

in the media, whatever the current story is is usually the #1 cause of the problem.

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | September 15, 2013 at 8 a.m. ― 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Lady this i aimed at curbing those who hospital shop an doctor shop. They call 911 from a payphone and go to a hospital for meds. Get out call 911 to go to another hospital for more meds. Then either abuse those meds or sell them. In the absence of these mess many people are switching to herion to stop from hetting "sick". This is a great policy for those trying to stop people from burdening the system. Most people with long term pain have multiple perscriptions for pain relief. If they need to go to the ed for pain relief they will recieve care and treatment. They are just not going to refill theor scrips anymore so those that are addicts cant abuse the system.

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Avatar for user 'blackbike'

blackbike | September 16, 2013 at 4 p.m. ― 10 months, 2 weeks ago

"If I am understanding that statistic correctly that means in the last 12 months there have been few than 269 deaths from car accidents, drowning, poisonings and/or heat stroke." Uh, no. There is no and/or...just or. Each cause of death had fewer than 269.
....
"Unfortunately it comes at the cost of the huge number of people who have conditions, such as allergies, and diseases, such as RA, that can "flare" on a weekend while their primary physician is not available or they cannot get an appointment with their doctor for up to eight weeks."
LadyLJ, let's get serious. You need a 30-day supply of Oxycontin because your allergies flared up? You have an RA flareup of such magnitude that you need more than a 30 day supply of Vicodin or Oxy, and your doctor won't see you for eight weeks?
As a person who questions dubious claims, I'm officially questioning what you posted...as in, it's nonsensical.
.

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