Massachusetts hospitals get compliance guidelines for offering meds to opioid addicts

Megan Knowles - Print  | 

After a 2018 state law required about 80 Massachusetts hospitals and satellite emergency rooms to offer opioid-addicted patients medication, hospitals are receiving guidelines to help with prescribing practices, public radio station WBUR reports.

Most hospitals lack enough ER nurses and physicians licensed to prescribe buprenorphine, a drug that helps prevent cravings for stronger opioids.

To help fill this gap, the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association released guidelines that explain how staff can get permission to prescribe buprenorphine; how to screen patients who may benefit from it; when to start the first dose; and how to get patients up to three days' worth of the drug.

The expectation is that patients will receive a prescription for more buprenorphine at their follow-up appointment outside the hospital.

However, since many hospitals lack addiction clinics or a network of primary care providers trained to manage patients on buprenorphine, the guidelines recommend these hospitals partner with local community health centers or addiction treatment programs.

The association said it is unaware of any other states that require offering medication-assisted treatment to patients treated in an ER.

Massachusetts hospitals will have to demonstrate compliance with the requirement to renew their state licenses.

More articles on opioids:
Opioid epidemic costs hospitals about $11 billion annually
American Heart Association offers online classes on caring for opioid OD victims
Pennsylvania students create wristband to track potential opioid OD victims

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