Limiting the Prescribing of Opioids

One of the recommendations for action made by the Maine Opiate Collaborative regarding treatment is to reduce the over-prescribing of opioids for pain.

  • Of those who developed opioid use disorder in the 2000s, 75 percent reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug (National Institute on Drug Abuse).
  • Overprescribing of opioids has contributed to the steep increases in the rate of opioid overdose and addiction.
  • Large doses of prescription opioids contributes to the number of pills introduced into our communities and the number of people at risk for overdose.
  • The medical literature now demonstrates that opioids are not effective in addressing chronic pain.

An Act to Prevent Opiate Abuse by Strengthening the Controlled Substances Prescription Monitoring Program limits the morphine milligram equivalent to 100 mg and went into effect July 29, 2016. The law further limits opioid prescriptions to 7 days for acute pain and 30 days for chronic pain. By limiting the amount of opioids prescribed, the risk of future addiction is lowered. When the law was passed, there were over 16,000 patients in Maine who were over 100 morphine milligram equivalents, which the U.S. CDC considers a dangerously high dose. Maine’s law is considered the most restrictive in the nation.

In 2016 and 2017, practices in MaineHealth organizations using EPIC Electronic Medical Record system have been very successful at reducing the number of patients prescribed 100 or more morphine equivalents. Decreases in the number of patients in these five physician groups range from 64 to 71 percent. The combined number of patients prescribed less than 100 morphine milligram equivalents  in the five physician groups decreased overall by 60 percent, from 768 in December 2015 to 306 in December 2017.

 

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