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

July 2015

Acute Pain Management and Safe Opioid Prescribing 


With opioid addiction and overdose deaths rising in the area, the safe and appropriate use of opioids to manage pain is an important topic in health care. A recent Boston Globe article reported there were 46 percent more fatal opioid-related overdoses in 2013 in Massachusetts than in the previous year, and that overdose deaths were more than twice as common as deaths from car and truck accidents.

The prescribing of opioids for the management of acute vs. chronic pain comes with a unique set of considerations. As we mentioned in an article from last month’s issue of Network Matters, the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) website is an excellent resource for physicians who prescribe opioids for the treatment of acute and chronic pain.

In the educational materials section, you can find an opioid prescribing guide containing helpful do’s and don’ts for acute pain management. Recommendations include:

  • Setting expectations with patients that opioids should be discontinued when the pain problem is no longer acute
  • Limiting all initial and refill prescriptions for acute pain to reduce the risk of diversion and potential resulting dependence
  • Conducting careful patient evaluation before any long-term opioid prescribing
  • Discussing risks, rules for safe use, and realistic expectations of benefits
  • Taking care to ensure that extended-release opioids are never prescribed for acute pain or to opioid-naïve patients

Please refer to the entire guide for additional 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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PUBLICATION INFORMATION

Eric H. Schultz,
President and Chief Executive Officer

Robert Farias,
Vice President, Network Services

Annmarie Dadoly,
Editor

Joseph O'Riordan,
Writer

Kristin Edmonston,
Production Coordinator