Actionable Solutions with Pain Management Alternatives to Opioids
Although it's impossible to escape news of the opioid epidemic, we haven't heard the whole story.
At Progressive Care, I've met patients from all walks of life and witnessed firsthand the caustic consequences of opioid misuse and abuse. The opioid epidemic is a deeply emotional and complicated issue
In this three-part series, we'll explore the causes, obstacles, and solutions to the over-prescribing of opioid medications. If you missed it, start with Part 1: How Opioid Medication Became the Only Prescribed Pain Treatment, and Part 2: Our Biggest Obstacles to Solving the Opioid Epidemic.
Join Progressive Care, along with their wholly owned subsidiary, PharmCo, LLC, in delivering these actionable solutions along with pain management alternatives to opioids.
1. Promote non-habit-forming alternatives to opioids
Today, pain treatment has the following standard practice:
Step 1: Standard oral NSAIDs (such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen)
Step 2: Prescription-grade Acetaminophen (Tylenol 3)
Step 3: Opioid
While a step-up approach to pain is logical, the above schedule leaves much to be desired. First, the standard treatment does not take into consideration the source of pain: injury, surgery, inflammation, bone, muscle, nerve, etc. The cause should be thoroughly examined before any pain treatment is prescribed. Second, it leaves out a whole host of pain-relieving alternatives.
Non-habit-forming alternatives to opioids include Baclofen, Ketoprofen, Diclofenac, Lidocaine, Doxepin, CBD oil or cannabis derivatives, and dozens of other medications, natural supplements and therapeutic solutions. Each of these medications has shown specific efficacy in treating pain for both acute and chronic conditions as well as in post-operative settings.
Some of these medications can be effective alone, some used in combination can also provide relief similar or superior to opioids and standard treatments. Special attention is necessary to avoid drug interactions, but many alternatives can be used with an opioid regiment to help manage a medication transition away from opioids or even just manage pain more effectively.
2. Change methodology to an individualized approach
In treating pain, doctors face several constraints:
- They don’t have the time or resources to identify and address the origins of pain thus making pain treatment less effective.
- Insurance companies have strict formularies and step therapy procedures for pain management and treatment, which do not include most of the best alternatives to opiates.
- Drug manufacturers are not promoting alternatives and keeping their costs high.
Each pain type, severity, and unique patient condition requires a specialized approach whereby all options are explored before an opioid is deemed necessary. This methodology will help patients achieve primary relief and preserved functionality without putting them at unnecessary risk. The right pharmacy partner will make the difference as pharmacists, those specially trained in pharmacology are often the missing link and an obvious vital resource for doctors struggling to deliver solutions. It takes time, patience, and expertise to get it right, but the cost of cutting corners is already evident.
3. Provide pain management education, training, and support
Education and pain management training is needed across the board, from patients, to doctors, to insurance carriers. There are a multitude of pain management therapies that are available. Studies show that for many pain-causing ailments, alternative therapies involving muscle relaxants, analgesics, NSAIDs and/or anti-depressants can be equally or more effective at treating both chronic and acute pain. However, these solutions are not “one-size-fits-all”. Dosage, medication combinations, and delivery method would have to be tailored to each specific patient.
Progressive Care, through its subsidiary PharmCo, has developed a full-service pharmacy with onsite custom compounding capability. The company recently launched a campaign to bring awareness to the alternative medicinal treatments for pain. The campaign was designed to educate and provide hope to the millions of Americans who are suffering because of opioid dependence and addiction. The campaign also intends to reach doctors who are under pressure to present more effective pain management options.
4. Pharmacies can lead the way
Between pain management clinics shutting down and clinics turning opioid patients away, it would seem there is nowhere for patients to get help. Healthcare providers don’t want to take the risk of lawsuits, regulatory scrutiny, fines, criminal action, or even just unhappy patients.
Progressive Care is leading the way in taking on the risk. Despite pushback from insurance carriers, PharmCo’s representatives have fought to have alternative pain treatments approved and included in formularies. The FDA, DEA, Medicare, CDC, NIH, and a number of other agencies and healthcare associations all agree that other drugs can and should be used to treat pain-and that insurance approval should not be withheld. Progressive Care is listening, educating, and pushing for change.
The opioid crisis is not unsolvable, and patients do not need to be left to fend for themselves to solve it. There is hope.