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U of M hopes to crack down on opioid addiction

Oct 25, 2016

With a $1.4 million per year grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service, the University of Michigan launched a five-year project called the Michigan Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network (Michigan-OPEN).

There are two goals for the project. The first is to cut in half the number of surgical patients receiving opioid prescriptions. The second is to cut down on the number of patients who become addicted to opioids after they are given those prescriptions for pain management.

According to their press release, the team at Uof M will work with surgical staffs of 12 networks to understand and best use practices for pain control treatment.

Opioid drug addiction following surgery affects one in 10 people who weren't previously addicted, according to the press release

“Surgeons prescribe nearly 40 percent of opioid painkillers in Michigan, but have few resources to guide them on best use of the drugs by patients before and after surgery,” says Chad Brummett, M.D., one of Michigan-OPEN’s three leaders and director of the Division of Pain Research in the U-M Department of Anesthesiology. “We hope that by working with surgical teams across the state, we can fill that gap for the benefit of individual patients and our state as a whole.”

According to a December 2015 report from the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, accidental opioid deaths in Michigan increased sixfold between 1999 and 2013. The study also found that 57% of these deaths were heroin related, "which is noteworthy since some patients first become addicted to prescription drugs and then turn to heroin, the strongest form of opioid," the authors pointed out.

The study also cites uncoordinated efforts between Michigan health care providers as a contributor to opioid addiction.

"In 2013, over 600 privately insured Michigan patients in the study group were defined as having uncoordinated opioid prescriptions (0.3 percent of all patients using prescription opioids). These patients filled at least ten opioid prescriptions from four or more providers within three months. As a result, they ran a higher risk of accidental overdose and death because their providers may not have been aware of alltheir opioid prescriptions." 

You can see more background from the U of M Health System in this video: 

Three leaders in the University of Michigan's pain research division will spearhead the project. One of Michigan OPEN's team leaders is surgeon Michael Englesbe. He says the medical community pushed for better patient pain care about 20 years ago. This increased prescribed painkillers —more than patients needed.

I challenge you to look in your cupboard tonight and look what's in there

"There's a lot of opiod's kind of 'left-over' and I challenge you to look in your cupboard tonight and look what's in there," he says. "And very well, the majority of Michigan residents probably have some prescription Opiods ... they never took."

For more on the problem of opioid addiction in Michigan, see Dustin Dwyer's series on Michigan's Hidden Epidemic.