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Doctors tighten caps on prescription pain killers

QUINCY, ILL. — Misuse of prescription pain killers has become a leading cause of death across the country.

It’s caused drug makers to tighten caps on prescriptions and create programs to better educate doctors on who to prescribe them.

Emergency Room staff at Blessing Hospital say they’re leading the fight against the problem in the Tri-State area.

“One of the concerns I have as an emergency physician, is that people are dying more from narcotic prescription overdoses than they are from motor vehicle accidents in the United States,” Dr. Richard Saalborn, medical director at Blessing Hospital Emergency Center said.

Blessing Hospital recently initiated a program where doctors cannot prescribe narcotics as easily as they had in the past.

“Often times, when you work at a place long enough, you see the same faces over and over again and start to get concerned,” Dr. Antony Wollaston said.

“It’s the person who’s been in here ten times for multiple reasons of pain, ankle sprains, dental pain, migraine headaches that comes in wanting their narcotics injection, requesting them by name. These are people who don’t need to be here for that type of problem,” Saalborn said.

Dr. Saalborn says your primary care physicians should take care of that type of pain, not the emergency room. But ER doctors continue to see an increase with these pain related illnesses.

“You’ll have a physician that may refuse to give a patient narcotics and they’ll come back half an hour later, reregister in the hope of seeing another physician that may not be aware of what the patient had,” Wollaston said.

ER staff can look up patient medical records online to see how many times they’ve visited. But in Illinois, it’s only a state-wide system.

“One of the things we’d really like to do is reach out to the care providers in the community and to know if there are pain contracts the patient has signed with them,” Saalborn said.

Dr. Saalborn says the contract should detail the one doctor, one pharmacy that prescribes your narcotics. But many people don’t sign contracts and go through multiple physicians.

“It makes it challenging sometimes to track down patients patterns and where they’re getting their narcotics. So if we see a pattern, we try to get social managers, social care managers involved and address those issues with the patient here regarding their chronic pain,” Wollaston said. “You try to address those issues before it gets out of hand. Often times, people get very upset about that but ultimately it’s in their best interest.”

According to the federal Food & Drug Administration, inappropriate use of prescription pain relievers caused nearly 425-thousand emergency room visits in 2009. The drugs were blamed for more than 15 thousand deaths that year.

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