Wash. state program increases pain med use

In a marked departure from current practices, the state of Washington developed a program 10 years ago designed to make sure doctors didn't under treat pain patients. The program seems to have succeeded, with the percentage of people using five major painkillers rising 96 percent between 1997 and 2005, according to one analysis. The growth was lead by use of Oxy Contin, use of which jumped 500 percent during this time period. Drug-related deaths and admissions for painkiller treatment have also increased, however.

Now, the state wants to pull back a bit, and has begun instituting measures that should cut back on the use of pain med prescriptions. The state is contacting doctors and other clinicians and asking for their help in tightening controls on narcotic scripts. In particular, it's asking the clinicians to let it know when a Medicaid patient gets 10 or more opiates a month. This has shunted 10 percent of those users into substance abuse programs. The state also issued new guidelines for pain med use, including a controversial suggestion as to when doctors should refer patients to pain specialists.

To learn more about the state's drug control efforts:
- read this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article

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