This article and audio (5:03 minutes) discuss a 2-year Kaiser Permanente program that teaches doctors how to safely prescribe pain medication. The program has significantly reduced the number of prescriptions for pain relievers like OxyContin and Vicodin. Doctors learn facts about narcotics not always taught in medical school--for example, how pain pills are as potent as morphine. They also learn prescribing more than 120 milligrams a day can lead to addiction and death and that the more pills they prescribe, the more likely those pills will be shared with family and friends or diverted to street sales. Health officials have seen about a 75 to 80 percent reduction in OxyContin prescriptions within Kaiser Permanente and a 95 percent decrease in Vicodin prescriptions. Doctors are now more likely to offer patients generic prescriptions as well as alternative treatments such as physical therapy. They also limit patients to a 1-month supply of pain relievers.
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