UW Medicine’s interactive training arms physicians with knowledge to curb prescription drug abuse

Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Idaho now form the newest hub for the highest rates of painkiller abuse, according to data released earlier this year by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

drugs---doctored“We have been confronting this epidemic of opioid abuse by broadening the scope of our educational content about best practice care of chronic pain and extending our outreach by making our expertise available to family practitioners and other primary care providers,” said Dr. David Tauben, Medical Director of the UW Medicine Center for Pain Relief and interim chief of its Division of Pain Medicine.

Part of this ongoing effort is a new web-based course, COPE-REMS (Collaborative Opioid Prescribing Education), a continuing medical education course from UW Medicine. COPE-REMS is specifically aimed at improving the safety of prescribing painkiller medications, also known as opioids.

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) for long-acting, extended-release painkillers, a reaction in part to the alarming death rate of nearly 16,000 prescription drug overdose deaths per year in the U.S. The FDA REMS requires opioid manufacturers to educate providers on ways to reduce risks associated with chronic opioid therapy.

UW Medicine’s COPE-REMS course is one of the first of its kind nationally to respond to this need and to be fully compliant with the REMS. It is based on an earlier continuing medical education course called simply COPE or Collaborative Opioid Prescribing Education. The new COPE-REMS course meets all FDA requirements and is rich with guidance about when it is appropriate to prescribe, to change a dose level, or to discontinue opioid prescribing. It offers videos of case-based scenarios to help providers model ways to handle difficult situations.

“Understanding the pharmacology of these medications is necessary,” said Dr. Mark Sullivan, a psychiatrist with the UW Medicine Center for Pain Relief, professor in the UW Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and a widely-published expert in pain management. “But so are the personal communication skills that allow providers to develop a trusting relationship with patients who are potentially at risk, whether due to high opioid doses or personal histories of substance abuse or mental illness.”

The COPE-REMS course is offered through the UW Center for Commercialization’s training program, the Training Xchange, which bridges the gap between researchers and front-line users who provide services.

To learn more about the COPE-REMS course, visit: http://www.trainingxchange.org/our-programs/cope-rems