New digital resource will reduce opioid harm

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New digital resource will reduce opioid harm

A new digital resource will allow pharmacists and GPs to see how many people are taking opioids and understand how their prescribing of painkillers is impacting patients’ health and wellbeing.

The NHS Business Services Authority’s opioid prescribing comparators, developed in partnership with NHS England and Wessex Academic Health Science Network, is an online dashboard that provides information such as the areas where opioid prescribing is most problematic locally, which patients need a medication review and how effective current interventions are at reducing harm from opioids prescribed for non-cancer pain.

The project, which brought together clinicians, data analysts and statisticians, is the first to separate national prescribing data by gender and use live electronic prescribing system information to identify patients who have been taking opioids for at least three but less than six months. The resource, the NHSBSA said, would “help prevent acute use of opioids turning into chronic use for non-cancer pain.”

“Patients taking any of the medicines highlighted in the tool as prescribed by their doctor should not stop taking them on their own but should take guidance from their doctor,” it said.

The resource is available to GP practices, primary care networks, integrated care systems and academic health science networks in England.

Its creation is part of a wider review into prescribed medicines launched in 2019 by Public Health England that revealed 11.5 million adults in England received one or more prescriptions for antidepressants, opioid pain drugs, gabapentinoids, benzodiazepines or z-drugs. 

The review also highlighted that 5.6 million people received a prescription for an opioid drug, although prescribing of opioids overall had fallen by around 11 per cent since 2017-18.

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