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Hospitals To Slash Painkiller Prescriptions By 40 Percent Amid Epidemic

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A health care group that runs a large network of hospitals and clinics in Utah revealed plans to drastically cut opioid painkiller prescriptions for acute pain.

Intermountain Healthcare announced Tuesday that hospitals in their network will work to reduce painkiller scripts by 40 percent by the end of 2018. They are the first health care network to commit to a specific plan to significantly reduce the amount of opioids dolled out amid the current national epidemic, reports KSL.

Opioid addiction is a growing problem in Utah, where doctors currently write roughly 7,000 prescriptions for painkillers each day. The overdose crisis claims two lives in Utah each day on average, and 91 people nationwide. Representatives at Intermountain Healthcare say their plan is to target prescriptions for acute pain and reduce scripts by encouraging doctors to discuss alternatives with their patients.

“We overprescribe (opioids) to some degree, the truth of it is,” Dr. Todd Allen, chief quality officer for Intermountain Healthcare, told KSL. “We’re trying to train everybody to have those important conversations. … Me and my colleagues are not going to be timid anymore.”

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently directed the Department of Justice to target doctors spreading opioid addiction by overprescribing painkillers. Sessions, speaking to the Columbus Police Academy in Ohio Aug. 2, announced he is appointing 12 veteran prosecutors to “focus solely” on rooting out doctors and other medical providers taking advantage of widespread addiction to opioids in the U.S.

The Department of Justice charged 412 people for fraud July 13, including nearly 300 health care providers, who were also either suspended or banned from federal health care programs over their violations.

Sessions said 120 people charged in the fraud, which totaled $1.3 billion, were involved in overprescribing and diverting shipments of opioid medications to the black market.

Drug overdoses are now the number one cause of accidental death for Americans under 50. The New York Times recently culled through data from state health departments and county medical examiners and coroners, predicting there were between 59,000 and 65,000 drug deaths in 2016.

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