As a result of guidelines issued to doctors by the state of Michigan in October 2017, surgeons are issuing one-third fewer scripts for opioids — without any negative consequences for patient care.
In a follow-up survey conducted among 12,000 patients in 43 hospitals across Michigan seven months after the protocol was established, there was no drop in patient satisfaction or increase in the pain due to the opioid cutbacks.
These startling results were published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Overall, doctors prescribed eight fewer pills per patient — dropping from 26 to 18 — across nine common surgical procedures including hernia repair, appendectomy and hysterectomy.
On the other end, patients reported decreasing their pill consumption from twelve to nine.
Dr. Jocelyn Vu, one of the authors of the study at the University of Michigan said, “We’re not trying to deny patients narcotics but there’s an acceptable level where people are still happy and still have their pain under control, but we have dropped the number to a minimum.”
In 2017, more than 47,600 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.
Ten years before, in 2007, opioid deaths came to 18,515.
The guidelines were issued by the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network.
The entire process in Michigan was voluntary.
The guidelines were not mandatory although they likely influenced insurers’ decisions about what they would cover.
So far, Michigan is the only state to attempt such a revised protocol, but the results should resonate throughout the country and lead other states and the feds to follow suit.
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