Florida hospital slashes painkiller use by 36% after revamped emergency protocol

Bradenton, Fla.-based Manatee Memorial Hospital and Lakewood Ranch (Fla.) Medical Center are no longer using opioids as a first line of defense in the emergency department, resulting in a significant decrease in opioid use, the Bradenton Herald reports.

The method, which launched at the two hospitals in February, is called Alternatives to Opioids. Since ALTO's launch, Manatee Memorial has seen a 36 percent reduction in the amount of hydrocodone, hydromorphine, morphine and oxycodone dispensed or prescribed in its ED.

In addition to emergency care providers receiving training on the new protocols, hospital staff is educating patients on alternative treatment methods when they enter the emergency care center.

Examples of alternatives to opioids include intravenous lidocaine for renal colic pain, or Tylenol, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory and topical painkillers, such as patches, used to treat lower back pain. 

"If we can reduce the amount of these drugs that they're administering ... you're going to kill a lot less people because what I heard today, 5 or 10 percent of people that take the first drug can very well get addicted and could be dead in a short period of time," said Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., who visited Manatee Memorial May 14 to discuss the program with hospital officials. "These drugs are highly addictive."

The hospitals also are working to change protocols and medication-assisted treatment for pain management and holding community outreach services on alternatives to opioids.

However, to continue reducing opioid use, more needs to be done, said Candace Smith, MPA, RN, chief nursing officer of Manatee Memorial. If other medical providers fail to implement similar initiatives, patients will continue to jump between physicians to receive painkiller prescriptions. "We have to educate the community and give them options, give them a place to go," she said.

More articles on opioids: 
FDA to hold patient-focused public meeting on chronic pain
Perks from drug companies may prompt physicians to prescribe more opioids
20 states with the worst drug problems

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