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Network Matters
News and Information for the
Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Network

June 2015

Valuable Resource for Safe Opioid Prescribing 

The safe and appropriate use of opioid analgesics to manage chronic pain is an important topic in the health care field, and over the past several months, Harvard Pilgrim has introduced policies that support safe prescribing, such as prior authorization requirements for select opioid analgesics.

Some excellent resources are available to assist providers in making decisions about prescribing opioids, including a website run by the organization Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP). In the educational materials section of this website, you will find informative slide presentations, videos, and an opioid prescribing guide, which we drew on to highlight some myths and facts about chronic opioid therapy.

What You Should Know About Chronic Opioid Therapy

MYTH: Chronic Opioid Therapy for chronic pain is supported by strong evidence. FACT: Evidence of long-term efficacy for chronic non-cancer pain (> 16 weeks) is limited and low quality. Opioids are effective for short-term pain management.  But, for many patients with chronic pain, analgesic efficacy is not maintained over long time periods.
MYTH: Extended-release opioids are better than short-acting opioids for managing chronic pain. FACT: Extended-release opioids have not been proven to be safer or more effective than short-acting opioids for managing chronic pain.
MYTH: Dose escalation is the best response when patients experience decreased pain control. FACT: When treating chronic pain, dose escalation has not been proven to reduce pain or increase function, but it can increase risks.

Reprinted with permission from the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP).

Please refer to the entire guide for more information and for references. Also, if you would like more information about Harvard Pilgrim pharmacy programs and medication policies, please visit our Pharmacy Program online.

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Eric H. Schultz,
President and Chief Executive Officer

Robert Farias,
Vice President, Network Services

Annmarie Dadoly,

Joseph O'Riordan,

Kristin Edmonston,
Production Coordinator