Helping Address Prescription Drug Abuse in the Commonwealth

Virginia has identified prescription drug abuse as one of the greatest patient safety dangers facing the Commonwealth today. Drug overdoses, babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) from opiate withdrawal, and providers inundated with patients seeking narcotics to treat persistent pain have greatly increased in recent years. Meanwhile, physicians are under greater scrutiny about prescribing behavior from the state, federal agencies, and medical boards. Virginia requires physicians and pharmacists to report opioid prescriptions, but access to the reporting system can pose challenges. In 2014, 728 Virginians lost their lives to prescription drugs and heroin overdoses, an increase from 661 such fatalities in 2013. In the past five years, the state has experienced a 57 percent increase in drug overdoses and seen nearly 3,000 Virginia lives lost. Meanwhile, patients’ rights have expanded. Last year, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that physicians and pharmacists in some cases can be sued by patients over personal narcotic addiction. One way hospitals and health care organizations can respond to such issues is by implementing a consistent prescribing and medication monitoring program. Cordant Health Solutions, a VHHA Shared Services endorsed vendor, can help providers create an integrated approach designed to protect hospitals, physicians, and patients that also meets goals proposed for VHHA’s Opioid Abuse Task Force. For more information on Cordant Health’s program, please visit VHHA Shared Services’ booth at the 2016 Patient Safety Summit, or contact Alan Hardwick at 276-698-1344 or