Intermountain to cut opioid prescriptions 40% by end of 2018: 5 things to know

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare aims to achieve a 40 percent reduction in the number of opioids prescribed for acute pain systemwide by the end of 2018.

Intermountain announced the goal Tuesday, making it the first health system to formally make such a specific and substantial pledge for opioid prescription reduction.

Here are five things to know.

1. To achieve the reduction, Intermountain has already trained about 2,500 prescribers in opioid reduction strategies. The system plans to extend this training to each of its 22 hospitals and 180 clinics throughout Utah and Idaho.

2. The system will also provide new tools and policies to help prescribers reduce the number of opioids prescribed by 5 million tablets annually.

"Currently, nationwide, providers tend to write prescriptions for more opioids than patients need, and large quantities of the medications are often left over after the need for pain relief is past," said Doug Smith, MD, associate medical director for Intermountain Healthcare. "We will follow best practices in prescribing so the medications prescribed more closely match the needs of patients."

3. Dr. Smith added that both chronic and acute pain patients will continue to have access to the medications they need.

"We will ensure patients have access to the full range of options to manage pain," Dr. Smith said.

4. Todd Allen, MD, acting chief quality officer for the network of hospitals and clinics, told The Salt Lake Tribune he recognized the risk associated with putting a hard number on the reduction goal, but said it is a way for the system to hold itself accountable.

"We won't be timid anymore," Dr. Allen told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We plan on making a big difference."

5. In Utah, 24 people died every month from prescription opioid overdoses in 2015, according to data from the Utah Department of Health cited by The Salt Lake Tribune.

More articles on opioids: 
Louisville files lawsuit against 3 opioid wholesalers 
FDA committee to evaluate use of opioid cough medicines in children: 3 things to know 
Insys settles Illinois opioid lawsuit for $4.45M

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