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Importance of Proper Pain Management Evidenced by Increasing Hospitalizations for Opioid Poisonings

A recent study reported by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has indicated that a parallel relationship exists between recent trends in opioid prescribing practices and hospitalization for opioid poisonings in children and adolescents. The study, released on October 31, 2016, concludes that, during the course of sixteen years, hospitalizations attributed to opioid poisonings in children and adolescents, or more generally, the pediatric population, have risen nearly two-fold.

JAMA reported in the study that poisonings attributed to prescription drugs are now the leading cause of injury-related mortality in the United States, driven importantly, by the increased use of opioid analgesics to treat chronic pain. In 2014 alone, it was reported that opioids were blamed for 18,893 deaths in the United States. In light of the growing epidemic of opioid addiction and opioid-related deaths, and given that opioids are among the most widely prescribed medications in the United States (invariably resulting in easier access to the medications), this particular study intended to examine trends in hospitalizations for opioid poisonings in children aged from 1 to 19 years. The study found that the prevalence of addiction, overdosing, suicide and other causes of death in pain patients is not limited only to adults, but in fact, affects individuals across the age spectrum.

With recent trends towards increasing scrutiny of pain management, physicians and practices that provide such services to patients are becoming more legally vulnerable. In the last several years, health-policymakers, health professionals, and regulators have become increasingly interested in the provision of better pain therapy and in the reduction of drug diversion and addiction, and the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) has sought to provide physicians servicing pain patients with guidelines for the proper use of opioid medication for chronic pain management and prescription of opioids to pain patients. In light of the JAMA report, it becomes evident that, while most of the current efforts have focused on regulating prescribing practices of physicians treating adults with chronic pain, similar attention must be paid to the prescription of prescription opioids for children. As such, it is imperative to conduct an analysis of a practices’ current processes and endeavor to improve their policies and procedures relating to the management of pain.

Frier Levitt routinely advises prescribers on their legal obligations and potential exposure to liability in light of federal and state laws and regulations relating to pain management and prescribing opioids for chronic pain. We have experience with the development and implementation of comprehensive pain management compliance plans that provide a useful summary to practitioners treating chronic and recurrent pain using methods that may include the prescribing of opioid drugs. Contact Frier Levitt today to speak to an attorney.