WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Opioid overdoses and opioid prescriptions dropped sharply in 2018 due to new prescribing guidelines, according to data provided by New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
The NHRMC health system, NHRMC Physician Group, and community physicians implemented new opioid prescribing policies on Oct. 12, 2017, and in the 12 months since the change, more than 19,000 fewer opioid prescriptions — a nearly 20 percent drop — have been dispensed through NHRMC.
This has resulted in over 836,000 fewer pills distributed in the community. Additionally, the number of patients prescribed opioid alternatives have increased by over 700 percent.
Prescriptions for Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the symptoms of an opioid overdose, increased over those 12 months from 168 to 576 — an increase of almost 250 percent.
Meanwhile, opioid overdose visits at NHRMC’s Emergency Department dropped by more than half through 10 months of 2018. From January through October, 72 people visited the emergency room due to overdoses compared to 155 during the same time period in 2017.
“When a community decides to come together, you see results like this,” said Dr. Kevin Cannon, chair of the NHRMC Opioid Task Force. “This is a result of our doctors, pharmacists, nurses and especially our patients’ efforts. This is a win, and not just because of the reduction of opioid pills in our community. This is about saving lives."
Just two years ago, a study claimed Wilmington was leading the nation in opioid abuse.
NHMRC credits these improvements to its Medical Executive Committee which adopted guidelines that encouraged physicians to balance safe and effective pain-management, which resulted in opioids being prescribed less often, for less duration and with fewer pills. The committee also promoted more use of non-opioid therapy.