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Department of Health Discusses Update to Emergency Department Prescribing Guidelines for STOP OVERDOSES IN PA: GET HELP NOW WEEK

Philadelphia, PA – Department of Health officials today announced their latest revisions to the state’s prescribing guidelines as part of Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, a statewide initiative to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone to Pennsylvanians and get help for residents suffering from the disease of opioid-use disorder.

“Our prescribing guidelines are an important tool for health care providers, and the revisions to the emergency department prescribing guidelines are essential in our opioid stewardship efforts,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “In many cases, doctors in the emergency department are treating individuals who are experiencing significant pain or trauma. We want to ensure doctors have the most up to date information when treating these patients. The guidelines outline various options for doctors to use as they treat patients for pain without using opioids, and for using opioids cautiously and judiciously.”

“Proactive prevention, as is seen through these guidelines, is a critical part of fighting the opioid and heroin epidemic,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jennifer Smith. “While prescription opioids can play an important role in a patient’s care and pain management, doctors and patients alike need to understand the dangers that can come from overprescribing and misuse. Closely following these prescribing guidelines will keep patients from developing a substance use disorder through opioid misuse.”

The revisions to the emergency department pain treatment guidelines update a version that was already in place. Guidelines for emergency department pain treatment, as well as the other 10 prescribing guidelines, will continue to be updated based on new information and best practices.

The emergency department pain treatment guideline recommends co-prescribing naloxone to at-risk patients who are being treated with opioids. A standing order for naloxone is available to anyone who believes that it is necessary for a loved one. There is also contact information included for referrals to the DDAP Help Line and local resources for people who may have opioid use disorder.

The Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force, convened by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs, includes members from state agencies, medical associations, provider advocates and community members. Dr. Ashburn, Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Director at the Penn Pain Medicine Center, has played an integral role in helping to develop all of the prescribing guidelines. The task force published the first prescribing guideline in 2014 and is continuing to update guidelines as the science develops and changes.

As part of Stop Overdoses in PA: Get Help Now Week, residents will be able to go to a state health center or their local pharmacy to get the overdose reversal medication naloxone. This medication reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and gives the patient a chance at recovery.

“We cannot get someone into treatment if they are dead,” Governor Wolf said. “Naloxone saves lives and we should all carry it because you never know when you will get the chance to help someone. This year alone, emergency medical services have saved more than 9,000 Pennsylvanians using naloxone and transported 92 percent of them to the hospital for treatment.”

Since Governor Wolf first signed a heroin and opioid disaster declaration in January, 16 state agencies have continuously worked to fight the opioid epidemic and have made significant progress to help individuals and families dealing with this crisis. Some accomplishments include waiving birth certificate fees for individuals seeking treatment, using federal Medicaid funding in treatment facilities to provide more than 12,000 individuals access to medically necessary treatment, and providing career services to people who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic and plan to return to work.

For more information on Pennsylvania’s response to the opioid crisis visit

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, 717-787-1783

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