Hospital chain pledges to cut opioid prescriptions 40 percent by 2018 in face of painkiller epidemic

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A Utah-based hospital chain pledged Wednesday to slash the number of opioid pills prescribed for patients with acute pain at its facilities by 40 percent by the end of 2018.

Intermountain Healthcare’s pledge comes in the face of a worsening epidemic of painkiller and heroin abuse in the United States. In 2015, there were more than 33,000 fatalities from opioid overdoses recorded — almost half of which involved prescription painkillers.

If nonprofit Intermountain achieves its goal, it will reduce the number of opioid tablets it prescribes to patients with acute pain in Utah and southern Idaho by more than 5 million each year at its 22 hospitals and 180 clinics.

Intermountain said it believed it is the first American health system “to formally announce such a significant and specific amount of reduction as a target.”

Dr. Marc Harrison, president and CEO of Intermountain, said, “We really want to make sure that we reduce the potential for abuse … but still ensure that our patients have high-quality care.”

Dr. Doug Smith, Intermountain’s associate medical director, noted that nationslly there is a problem with health providers tending “to write prescriptions for more opioids than patients need, and large quantities of medications are often left over after the need for pain relief is past.”

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