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Opioid Prescribing Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals

Philadelphia Department of Public Health
Division of Disease Control

We are facing a crisis in overdose deaths in Philadelphia. Between 2013 and 2015, fatal drug overdoses increased by more than 50%, from 459 deaths to 702. In 2016, Philadelphia is projected to have 840 drug overdose deaths, which is nearly three times the number of homicides in the city. Eighty percent of those overdose deaths will involve opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl.

Preventing drug overdose fatalities depends in large part on preventing opioid addiction. Your health care provider can help prevent addiction by prescribing opioids to fewer patients, in smaller amounts, and for shorter periods of time. Physicians should also prescribe benzodiazepines less often and avoid prescribing them to patients taking opioids.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) and Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS) recommend that healthcare providers follow the attached guidelines when prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines. These recommendations are based on evidence-based guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and include the following recommendations for prescribers:

  • When using opioids for acute pain, prescribe short-acting forms and no more than necessary. Three days or less is often sufficient.
  • Do not prescribe opioids as first-line or routine therapy for chronic pain. Long-term opioid use should be reserved for cancer-related pain and palliative care.
  • Avoid concurrent benzodiazepine and opioid prescribing.
  • Check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) before prescribing opioids or benzodiazepines. Providers can query the program to see if their patients have already been prescribed controlled medications, and are required to do so before prescribing one to a new patient. Register for the PDMP here: https://pennsylvania.pmpaware.net/login.

PDPH Health Information Portal
Mayor’s Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic
To attend a task force Listening Session and share your concerns and suggestions, register today.
Contact PDPH via email at overdose.prevention@phila.gov with questions about the prescribing guidelines.

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