In a surprisingly short time, opioids have gone from a niche term within the medical profession to a household name. Addictions to opioid medicines and, through them, to heroin, have escalated to epidemic levels. They have been tearing families apart, ruining lives, and costing our public health and safety agencies massive amounts of money. The problem has grown too large to have a simple, one-step solution, and our government is exploring options to address the epidemic from every necessary angle.
To this end, we at Cherundolo Law Firm are one of three firms working with Oneida County and the Village of Herkimer as part of a nationwide investigation and series of litigation related to the role pharmaceutical companies have had in creating and sustaining the opioid crisis. While this approach is largely aimed at shutting down bad business practices and covering the costs needed to maintain public safety due to the epidemic, a local healthcare network is teaming with the state to reduce the direct impact opioid prescriptions are having on individuals.
Piloting A New Course
Iroquois Healthcare Alliance (IHA), based in East Syracuse and Clifton Park, operates 52 hospitals in upstate and western New York. As part of their healthcare advocacy, IHA drafted a proposal to the state government to fund a pilot program in a number of hospitals with the aim of reducing opioid prescriptions and replace them with alternative medicines and therapies.
The Utica Observer-Dispatch reports that the state approved the proposal, named the Opioid Alternative Program, to the tune of $500,000 in the budget passed this spring. The program is designed after a similar one in Colorado, which operated in ten hospitals for one year and collected data for six months. The IHA will operate the pilot program but has not yet determined which hospitals will carry it out.
The pilot program will focus on emergency room prescriptions, but it is intended to spread to other hospital departments and out to other medical practices and facilities once best practices have been tested and established. Such a program is already underway in the Mohawk Valley Health System, where alternatives to opioids have been a topic of conversation and research between hospitals within and beyond the network. The goal of both the pilot program and in-house systems like that at Mohawk Valley are to identify where opioids are not necessary for a patient’s condition and focus on other proven approaches.
Opioids are not expected to vanish entirely through these programs, as there are some individual cases where they are the most, or only, suitable option. However, ensuring that they are not used anywhere else, and limiting their use even when prescribed, are hoped to break the cycle of addiction that is tearing through our community.
Medical professionals have a responsibility to prescribe and use medicines in safe and manageable ways, and when medication errors happen, they can severely harm patients and their community. If you have been a victim of improper medicine use, you need someone on your side who understands the legal requirements of medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies, and will fight for your rights. Contact Cherundolo Law Firm today to learn what we can do for you.