By: Kaylah Jackson
Starting today, you can find out the VA dispenses opioids and their advice for prescribing it in a safe manner. So far, the VA is the first to give public information on how it prescribes this pain medication.
This announcement comes at an opportune time when last year, President Trump declared the opioid crisis as national emergency while many in the veteran community criticized the VA, saying the heavy amount of pharmaceuticals, also known as a “combat cocktail,” they were prescribed caused more harm than good.
“Many Veterans enrolled in the VA health-care system suffer from high rates of chronic pain and the prescribing of opioids may be necessary medically,” Secretary Shulkin said. “And while VA offers other pain-management options to reduce the need for opioids, it is important that we are transparent on how we prescribe opioids, so Veterans and the public can see what we are doing in our facilities and the progress we have made over time.”
The website shows an interactive map, found here, showcases dates from 2012 to 2017 with opioid-dispensing rates for each facility which will be updated semi annually on January 15 and July 15 of each year. While the graph displays information based on geographic location, keep in mind that the rates of opioid use may differ and shouldn’t be directly compared.
Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said, “Declaring the opioid crisis a nationwide public health emergency was a call to action by the President. His administration is exploring all tools and authorities within their agencies to address this complex challenge costing lives. Veterans Affairs Secretary Dr. Shulkin is heeding that call; the VA is now the first hospital system in the country to post information on its opioid prescribing rates. This is an innovative way to raise awareness, increase transparency and mitigate the dangers of over-prescribing.”
Many believe in light of the awareness of this opioid epidemic, it’s commendable the VA is taking steps to become more transparent about how they prescribe this medication.
Chairman Phil Roe, said “Opioid abuse is a public health emergency, and it’s clear from these figures that VA is taking effective action to curb opioid abuse and dependency. As a physician, I am keenly aware of the fact that every patient has different needs and preferences, and I believe this is a positive step in the right direction. VA should lead the way and be transparent in its prescribing – especially considering overprescribing is a significant contributor to the opioid epidemic. I believe the department is taking a measured approach to addressing opioid misuse and overprescribing, and today’s announcement further underscores its commitment to transparency and patient safety.”