Cleveland Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cosgrove: Healthcare providers helped facilitate opioid epidemic and have a key role in ending it

Toby Cosgrove, MD, CEO of Cleveland Clinic, called for healthcare providers to rethink pain management in an effort to help reverse the tide of the nation's ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, according to a recent viewpoint article.     

In the article, Dr. Cosgrove cited the statistic suggesting more than 60,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2016, which is more than the total number of American deaths (58,200) tallied in the Vietnam War. The 2016 death toll is primarily attributable to opioid-related overdoses.

"This has to stop and healthcare providers have a key role in turning the tide," Dr. Cosgrove wrote in the article. "One of the most sobering statistics, from a physician's point of view, is that over 75 percent of opioid and heroin deaths begin with a prescription pain killer. The healthcare industry bears some responsibility. That's not to say that patients aren't in legitimate pain. They are, maybe as many as 100 million by some estimates. But we as healthcare providers have to approach pain differently, smarter."

Dr. Cosgrove detailed strides made by providers to reduce opioid prescriptions at Cleveland Clinic. Since July, the health system has cut emergency department opioid prescriptions exceeding three days by 50 percent.

"Essentially, we can attack the opioid epidemic in four ways: giving healthcare providers the prescribing tools and resources they need; insisting on team engagement among hospital departments; tracking prescribing data and demanding accountability; and sharing information with other hospitals in the region," wrote Dr. Cosgrove.

Additional efforts to reduce opioid use at Cleveland Clinic include designating "pain champions" in every hospital unit, training providers to compassionately decline patient requests for opioids, and using the nonopioid pain medication Exparel in mastectomy patients.

To learn more about the Cleveland Clinic's efforts to curb opioid use, click here

More articles on opioids: 
U.S. Naval Hospital Naples begins prescription take-back program 
CDC reports stark increase in drug overdose deaths 
Trump's proposed opioid advertising campaign still lacks millions of dollars

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