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Free CME's for prescribers of pain medication

PROVO, Utah (May 2, 2011) -- Since November, 2010, the Utah County Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team (SMART) has funded advanced training to 163 healthcare providers that includes doctors, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and dentists on how to refine their prescribing of pain pills.

"When used properly, pain pills can greatly aid in the recovery process," said Dr. Stephen Nelson, MD, SMART coalition chair. "In some cases, however, patients abuse or unknowingly misuse their prescriptions which can lead to addiction."

SMART found in focus group and community studies that patients were often being over prescribed pain pills with little or no instruction on how to safely use, store, and dispose of leftover medication. A physician SMART interviewed said, "There are some doctors that don't want to get a follow-up phone call [from a patient], so if you think they may need 10 . . . you give them 20."

"Most physicians freely admitted the time spent counseling patients about prescription pain medication was minimal or sometimes nonexistent," said Kye Nordfelt, SMART Coalition Coordinator.

SMART worked with local physicians to create a training program to address prescribing practices and patient education. "The goal of the training is to provide doctors with tools that will help prevent pill abuse among their patients," said Nordfelt.

The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing's (DOPL) Controlled Substance Database is one tool doctors can use. "This database is designed to help doctors and other prescribers spot individuals that are pill shopping, or going from one doc to another to get prescriptions to feed an addiction," said Nordfelt. DOPL will also report back to a physician's office if an individual is involved in a drug related DUI or overdose. SMART's training also provides screening, educational tools, and treatment resources doctors can use to better serve patients.

Participants are contacted by SMART representatives to evaluate the effectiveness of the training. "Over 90 percent said they were spending more time with their patients, explaining the proper use of the patient's pain medication," said Nordfelt. "Over 80 percent said they were prescribing fewer pills to patients and they reported an increased use of the Controlled Substance Database."

SMART members are excited to hear the outcomes. "Sometimes healthcare professionals are unaware of their patients' history of misusing or abusing prescription drugs. The material presented is insightful and aids providers to know how to better serve their patients," said Dr. Nelson.

Pain pill abuse is also catching the attention of Utah legislators. Senator Pat Jones sponsored legislation that passed in 2011 that requires practitioners to take continuing medical education regarding controlled substance prescribing each licensing period. "Our training fulfills this requirement," said Nordfelt.

With its recent success, SMART is now in the process of a new contract to provide more trainings. "We are glad to hear physicians and practitioners found the training helpful," said Nordfelt. "With that knowledge, we want to move forward and arm more doctors with tools they can use to help their patients avoid pill abuse." Nordfelt encourages doctors interested in this presentation to contact SMART. The training is free of charge and offers upwards of 20 continuing medical education units.

Professionals interested in participating in the trainings are encouraged to contact Nordfelt at the Utah County Division of Substance Abuse, 801-851-7181.

As part of the Utah County Division of Substance Abuse, S.M.A.R.T Utah County is dedicated to the prevention of alcohol and prescription narcotic drug misuse and abuse among individuals living in Utah County. Established in 2008, SMART is composed of residents, elected officials, human service providers, law enforcement, educators, business representatives, and other members of the community. Individuals interested in participating in SMART are encouraged to contact Nordfelt at 801-851-7181, or by following SMART at www.facebook.com/SMART.UTAH

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