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Preventing prescription drug overdoses: Where W.Va. stands

See our main story, "Prescription drug abuse takes deadly toll in W.Va.," here.For more stories in this series click here. CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Last year, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made recommendations for reducing overdose deaths caused by opiate painkillers. Here's a look at some of those recommendations, and where West Virginia stands.For health-care providers  
  • They include: Use opiate painkillers only after determining that alternative therapies don't work well enough; consider random drug testing for patients under 65 with non-cancer pain; consult with a pain specialist if a patient doesn't improve at a certain dosage; routinely request reports from the state prescription-drug monitoring program.
  •  Where W.Va. stands: The state medical board has a policy on pain management that includes a few of these concepts. The board encourages doctors to use the state's prescription drug-monitoring program, a database of prescriptions dispensed in the state. The policy doesn't require it.For state and federal agencies
  • State prescription-drug monitoring programs should routinely send reports to providers on patients under age 65 if they are being treated with opiate painkillers for more than six weeks by two or more providers or if there are signs of inappropriate use of controlled substances.
  •  Where W.Va. stands: West Virginia has a prescription drug-monitoring program, but the program doesn't send routine reports to providers. A report released this month by the state Legislative Auditor recommends changes so that officials can use the system to detect possible "doctor shopping" and track unusual prescribing patterns. 
  • State and federal benefits programs should consider monitoring prescription claims information for signs of inappropriate use of controlled substances by patients.
  •  Where W.Va. stands: The state Medicaid program and the Public Employees Insurance Agency monitor claims for controlled substances. For example, PEIA's pharmacy benefit manager sets parameters based on the amount of controlled substances a member receives, the number of doctors who prescribe it, and the number of pharmacies the member visits for these prescriptions within a designated time. When a member meets these parameters, their doctors get a letter alerting them. 
  • State and federal agencies should work to improve the availability of substance-abuse treatment services.
  •  Where W.Va. stands: Experts say many West Virginians lack access to substance-abuse treatment.
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