19 August 2009

Methadone prescribers' network

The astonishing recent rise in opioid overdoses (many involving methadone) has finally forced me to agree that our (at least in the US) opioid policies and practices need some revision. Thus this expansion of a program available to buprenorphine prescribers seems welcome.

A New Service For Health Care Providers Who Prescribe Methadone To Treat Chronic Pain Or Opioid Addiction: "
A new service for health care providers prescribing methadone to treat chronic pain or opioid addiction -- the Physician Clinical Support System for Methadone (PCCS-M) -- opens this week with a mechanism to connect prescribers of methadone with experienced clinicians for one-to-one mentoring regarding the use of this medication.

Methadone is an inexpensive opioid medication that has several unique properties that make it particularly well suited to the treatment of chronic pain or opioid addiction, but it also has side effects and the potential for overdose and requires specific information for its proper use.

The new service is one in a number of federally-funded projects that address the need within the nation's health care system to provide safe and effective care of patients with chronic pain and opioid addiction while, at the same time, protecting the public from prescription drug abuse and diversion of medications. Using this new service, prescribers can contact a mentor, a knowledgeable colleague, by phone or e-mail with specific questions about the use of methadone for treating chronic pain or opioid addiction.

Source: American Society of Addiction Medicine "

As a general rule, I think drug policy should (strongly) promote the responsible clinician's ability to prescribe opioids as she sees fit . So, insofar as this sort of program can help stem diversion and accidental overdose, I'd much rather see more of these than more restrictive drug policies.