Newswise — Due to US President Barack Obama’s recently announced pledge concerning opioid prescription education and his additional actions to escalate the fight against prescription opioid abuse and the heroin epidemic, Georgia Campus – Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (GA-PCOM) Dean and Chief Academic Officer H. William Craver III, DO, was invited as a guest of the White House to attend the National Rx Abuse and Heroin Summit held in Atlanta recently. Earlier GA-PCOM had pledged to join other medical schools across the nation in support of the White House’s initiative on chronic pain opioid prescription education. The White House pledge includes incorporating new federal guidelines that urge doctors, especially those in primary care, to be more cautious when prescribing potentially addictive narcotics.

“As part of AOA’s ongoing collaboration with the White House to address the opioid epidemic, we’re pleased to announce that 27 colleges of osteopathic medicine will require their students to receive prescriber education prior to graduation,” John Becher, DO, President of the AOA, said. “By teaching and reaffirming appropriate prescribing throughout the continuum of osteopathic medical education, DOs are working to improve the quality of care now and for future generations of physicians,” he said.

GA-PCOM has been working on this initiative throughout the school year. Through its Interprofessional Education (IPE) program, the college has developed a curriculum that involves osteopathic medical and pharmacy students working together throughout all four years of their education. The curriculum teaches future healthcare professionals the importance of collaborating and communicating to deliver the best patient-centered care. This year the theme revolved around drug addiction.

On April 7, a team from GA-PCOM including Assistant Dean of Clinical Education Paula Gregory, DO, MBA; Professor and Assistant Dean for Curriculum Bonnie Buxton, PhD; and Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, Jennifer Elliott, PharmD; along with “Addiction on Trial” author Steven Kassels, MD, will be presenting the college’s IPE data at the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine annual meeting in Washington, DC. Vice Chair and Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmacy Practice, Sara Reece, PharmD, is also part of the IPE team, but will not attend the meeting. This year, first year students worked together in five member teams to explore aspects of ethics and professionalism, particularly surrounding issues of drug abuse.

As the culmination of this year’s IPE work, Dr. Kassels spoke to students, faculty and staff members. With the assistance of Dr. Kassels, a curriculum had been designed to guide students in exploring the psycho social and ethical issues affiliated with addiction.

According to Dr. Kassels, the annual cost to society for drug and alcohol addiction-related issues is $400 billion which includes crime, health care and lost worker productivity. The disease affects all socio-economic groups. “We’ve tried to cut supply for years,” he said, “but it has not worked. We also need to cut the demand.” He added, “We as Americans have a desire to take away the pain, and physicians need to be more cognizant of best prescribing practices for pain medications.”

Dr. Kassels believes that the gateway drugs to heroin include opiates, alcohol and marijuana and that physicians and pharmacists have an obligation to monitor usage. He encouraged students to screen, intervene and refer to treatment when they are practicing providers. By learning to recognize the signs of drug abuse and how to communicate with other disciplines, these future doctors will be able to effectively use treatment resources in caring for patients.