Opioid Tablets Being Reduced at Intermountain Healthcare


Intermountain will cut the amount of opioid tablets given for acute pain by 40 percent. Acute pain conditions are temporary, such as a broken arm or post-surgery. Physicians can and will prescribe appropriate pain medications, but with a focus on supplying the appropriate number of pills to match the condition.

Opioid misuse has become a national emergency that affects many families and friends. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, more than 33,000 people died from unintentional overdoses involving opioids—and nearly half of those deaths involved prescription opioids.

Every day, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose (this includes prescription opioids and heroin).  There are 142 Americans who die daily from drug overdoses of all types. Two of these Americans are Utahns. The epidemic hits home as Utah has ranked for years in the top 10 for drug overdose deaths.

Providers nationwide tend to currently give prescriptions for patients with more opioid pills than are necessary. The pain will be over and the patient will be stuck with unused medications sitting in their homes. We are developing new best practices that will give the appropriate amount for a patient to eliminate the leftovers.

Unused medications in a home becomes a risk for accidental misuse or purposely taken for drug abuse. Some studies have shown that two-thirds of all opioids misused come from family members or friends — 80 percent of heroin users began with prescription opioids.

RELATED: Opioid Misuse and the Importance of Medication Safety

To achieve the 40 percent reduction, Intermountain has already provided training to about 2,500 caregivers within its system, with plans to expand training to additional prescribers in Utah and Idaho communities. Intermountain is adding prompts and default order sets into its electronic health records to help reduce the number of tablets prescribed.

This new plan is part of Intermountain’s continued efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic. Intermountain has joined with community partners and state government agencies. Including the Use Only As Directed campaign which teaches safe disposal of unused medications and education of opioid prescriptions. Community drop boxes were installed in all Intermountain pharmacies in early 2015. To date, 15,000 pounds of medications have been dropped in there.

If you are not able to get to a drop box then there is a way to dispose of unused medications at home. Place the medication into a bag and crush them. Next add something unappealing to the bag – coffee grounds, cat litter, dirt or anything to keep people from digging through them.

We also encourage everyone to speak to their doctor about opioid risks, options for pain management, and determine if they want the prescription.

For more information about the opioid initiative:  Intermountain Healthcare Sets Goal to Reduce Opioid Prescribing by 40 Percent

For more information about opioids, safe disposal including drop box locations, visit www.useonlyasdirected.org.