By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — New state guidelines for prescribing opioids aim at reducing the risk of addiction. Opioid addiction is a public health crisis. Nearly 400 people died of an opioid overdose in Minnesota alone in 2016.

Friday Lt. Governor Tina Smith and healthcare providers laid out steps critical to combating the problem.

“This is a crisis that is hurting people in every corner of our state,” Smith said.

The state and healthcare communities have worked to establish best practices for opioid prescribers since bipartisan legislation was signed in 2015.

“These guidelines will help providers decide when to prescribe these powerful drugs, how much to prescribe and how to monitor their use,” Smith said.

Dr. Chris Johnson led the team of experts through the Opioid Prescribing Work Group.

“The research has shown conclusively every brain is at risk and once the exposure starts happening to opioids your risk goes up,” Johnson said.

The crisis grew in 2016 in Minnesota with a 12 percent increase in opioid overdoses, according to statistics provided by the state.

“We know that the most critical time frame to prevent chronic opioid use is that bridge between short-term prescriptions and long-term prescriptions, the first 45 days,” Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said.

She reports last year, there were 47 opioid prescriptions for every 100 Minnesotans.

“Several counties recorded as many prescriptions as there are residents in their county,” Piper said.

The guidelines are intended to support prescribers, not look over their shoulder says Dr. Johnson. But he stressed this must be done in the best interest of the patient.

“Who is the healthcare industry really serving? It is serving the patient or, well, is it serving itself. Because I think the American people deserve better,” Johnson said.

The guidelines are currently a draft. Now there will be a 30-day public comment period. Click here to view the draft.

The guidelines come one day after several county attorneys announced plans to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Comments (5)
  1. How many overdoses were from legal prescriptions? Betting that like here most were heroin laced with some variant of fentanyl. All that’s being accomplished is totally destroying the already miserable life’s of chronic pain patients. Certainly has made mine a horror.

  2. From a chronic pain patient who’s been medicated for 25 years now, I am scared to death by this. I will not live with the pain, I cannot treat the pain without the meds. I’ve never gone over the fence to illegals, but I may be forced to if they take my meds away. Interesting dichotomy, eh?

  3. Jay Mooser says:

    Another misguided government policy. No responsibility falls to the big pharma to find cures instead of symptomatic medications. No responsibility by legislature to hold them accountable. No responsibility given to research facilities that take sizable grants to create good medications but fail. All at the expense of the person in chronic pain.

  4. Susan Burns says:

    Who get’s to chose what’s in the best interest of patients? The government? As a chronic pain patient for many years, and a responsible medication user, this whole war on opioids is terrifying. Doctors have been scared to treat pain for many years already, and these new policies aren’t helping anyone. Cutting back on legitimate prescriptions will only drive more people onto the streets to get their pain relief, because no one wants to live in excruciating pain.

    Meanwhile, the big drug distributors are diverting drugs to the addicted population, and making big money.

  5. Jerry Toman says:

    Who are the chronic pain suffers on your panel? None right? How about someone who’s lived with someone with chronic pain for over 35 years? none right? My worst chronic pain came from a back surgery performed by a surgeon that no one told me had just gotten out of treatment for cocaine addiction. It was to repair drop foot. My first three surgeries with another surgeon relieved my pain. This one destroyed my life. I ended up having a fifth back surgery with a fusion in 2005. I’ve since had my neck fused, both fusions are starting to fail, both knees replaced, a hernia from my navel to my sternum from being opened up front for back fusion and unbearably painful lumps on my lower back appear near the surgery sight. One of the lumps evens travels. I was on 720mg of extended release morphine for 13 years after Dr.Cokehead took my life away. Workman’s comp nor Medicare and my supplemental will pay for anything other than opioids. I”m now down to 180mg. How do you think I’m feeling?
    The cartels are just smiling at the dumb Americans again. Before the suicide rates hit epidemic proportions, stop this and get a comprehensive plan that tells the insurance companies they will pay for alternative methods such as acupuncture. Or do the insurance companies scare you too much?

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