Philly becomes first city to issue opioid prescription guidelines

Pat Loeb
December 19, 2018 - 12:40 pm
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Tom Farley announces city guidelines for post-op prescription of opioids.

Pat Loeb/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. The guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.

Philadelphia is the first city to take on the task. Health Commissioner Tom Farley says other efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions have paid off, but still a survey showed they're at historically high levels.

"One in seven adults in the city were taking opioids, and one in three — or more than 450,000 people — had received a prescription in the previous 12 months," Farley said.

He says the city zeroed in on surgery because research shows it's a time when opioids are often overprescribed.

"There's also evidence opioids may not be necessary at all. Opioids really aren't that good for acute pain after surgery," he said.

Mayor Jim Kenney often tells the story of having minor surgery a couple of years ago and being sent home with 30 oxycodone. 

"I wound up taking two or three of them and then went to Tylenol 800 and it did the job," he said. "So, what happens then is you don't know what to do with the pills, so you leave them in the medicine cabinet, and that's where kids first enounter the opportunity to take those drugs, from their parents' medicine cabinet."

The guidelines recommend no opioids after minor surgery and a maximum of 18 after major surgery. They were developed with surgeons from the city's three largest health systems, including Scott Cowan of Thomas Jefferson.

"We recognize that physician prescribing practices must change, and these guidelines will provide a nice framework for these changes," Cowan said.