WVU Medicine adopts CDC opioid prescribing guidelines

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine – West Virginia University Health System has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioid prescribing guidelines as part of the system’s mission to improve the health of the state.

West Virginia loses more people to opioid overdose than any other state. WVU Medicine is committed to combatting the opioid epidemic in the state. In addition to treatment options at WVU Medicine Chestnut Ridge Center, this commitment includes discouraging addiction through responsible prescribing practices.

“As the largest healthcare provider in the state, we feel a responsibility to address what is a major health crisis in our state,” G. Daniel Martich, M.D., WVU Medicine chief medical officer, said. “We have had different policies and procedures in place for many years, but we saw the release of the CDC guidelines as an opportune time to unite around one standard to protect the people we serve.”

WVU Medicine’s new guidelines include using non-pharmacologic therapies, such as exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy, and non-opioid pharmacologic therapies, such as anti-inflammatory medications, to treat chronic pain whenever possible. When opioid medication is appropriate, WVU Medicine prescribers will follow a “start low and go slow” principle, measure effectiveness by functional goals rather than pain severity, and monitor patients through regular follow-up.

All seven system hospitals — Ruby Memorial Hospital, Potomac Valley Hospital, Berkeley Medical Center, Jefferson Medical Center, United Hospital Center, Camden Clark Medical Center, and St. Joseph’s Hospital — and their associated clinics are committed to responsible opioid prescribing practices.

The full statement is below:

“West Virginia University’s Health System, WVU Medicine, is committed to providing outstanding quality, patient safety, and individualized care. Oftentimes, great care involves pain control of acute and chronic conditions. As a system, we have embraced the CDC guidelines for use of medications in treating chronic pain. Except for active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care scenarios, the guidelines we have adopted advocate the use of non-pharmacologic therapies (such as exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy) and non-opioid pharmacologic therapies (such as anti-inflammatory medications) for chronic pain.  

We do not endorse using opioids routinely for chronic pain. When opioids are used, our prescribers combine them with non-pharmacologic or non-opioid pharmacologic therapy. This not only provides greater benefits but ensures opioid therapy is appropriate, safe, and effective. Further, when the use of opioids is indicated, WVU Medicine supports a ‘start low and go slow’ prescribing principle, an emphasis on functional goals rather than pain severity to measure treatment effectiveness, and regular follow-up to monitor patients. WVU Medicine provides robust electronic health record capabilities to further monitor medication prescribing patterns and to uphold patient safety as a priority in our care.”

With more than 12,000 employees and nearly $2 billion in annual revenues, the WVU Medicine-West Virginia University Health System includes seven West Virginia hospitals and their affiliated practices and clinics, including West Virginia University Hospitals, United Hospital Center, Camden Clark Medical Center, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Potomac Valley Hospital, Berkeley Medical Center, and Jefferson Medical Center. The specialists, sub-specialists, and primary care physicians of West Virginia University (through its affiliated faculty practices in Morgantown, Charleston, and Martinsburg); the WVU Cancer Institute; the WVU Eye Institute; WVU Medicine Children’s; and the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute also operate under the WVU Medicine brand. To learn more, visit WVUMedicine.org.