MADISON, Wis. — University of Wisconsin researchers are hoping to expand a program that involves coaching primary care doctors to follow opioid prescribing guidelines as part of the fight against the state’s opioid epidemic.

Doses fell 11 percent at four clinics that paid special attention to urine drug testing and other patient monitoring methods, the Wisconsin State Journal reported . Four other UW clinics that were not involved in the coaching program saw doses increase 8 percent.

The program had a few recommendations for patients on opioids for non-cancer pain, such as urine drug testing at least once a year. Researchers recommended mental health screenings to identify other conditions that can be treated separately, as well as the implementation of treatment agreements, which a patient signs to acknowledge the risks and commit to safeguards.

“They can help physicians initiate conversations about dose reduction, if that’s indicated,” Andrew Quanbeck, an industrial engineer researcher at the university.

University researchers have applied for a federal grant to expand the program to almost 40 clinics. Experts say the likelihood of misuse is decreased if fewer pills are prescribed.

“Clinical guidelines are often difficult to interpret for practitioners, and hard to implement,” Quanbeck said. “This is meant to be a model that potentially could be used nationwide.”

Almost 830 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016, which was 35 percent more than the previous year.

Opioids include prescription painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine and fentanyl, as well as illicit drugs such as heroin.


Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj