PERU – Veterans receiving pain treatment at the Peru Veteran’s Affairs outpatient clinic are seeing a reduction in the amount of opioids they are prescribed.
The VA Northern Indiana Health Care System, which includes the Peru clinic, reports there has been a 47-percent decrease in opioid prescriptions throughout the system since 2012. Most of that reduction came over the last two years, which saw a 38 percent decrease.
Officials say they reduction is part of the National VA Opioid Safety Initiative effort to reduce the need for opioids among veterans.
“This is a serious effort by our healthcare team to meet the pain management needs of our veterans while safely reducing the opioids they are prescribed,” said Dr. Wayne McBride, Northern Indiana’s chief of staff, in a release.
He said VA Northern system is focusing on using traditional treatments as well as alternative medical approaches to assist in the steady decrease of veterans’ pain medications.
In addition to traditional specialties used to treat and resolve pain, the Northern Indiana system has partnered with community providers for acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, aqua therapy and other forms of alternative medicines.
“As we continue to reduce the opioid use among our veterans, we look forward to further improving their function and pain relief through non-narcotic treatments,” McBride said.
The report comes after an investigation at the Peru clinic found employees there reduced veterans’ pain medication without doing physical assessments. The report led to the termination of two employees.
The investigation found one employee at the Peru clinic had tapered opioid pain medication for at least six veterans without a face-to-face clinical appointment or physical assessment, which violates both Indiana state law and VA policy.
An employee confirmed to investigators that veterans had complained that their narcotic prescriptions were reduced without their knowledge.
The VA was unable to substantiate whether a veteran died as a result of having their medication changed. An autopsy revealed the veteran died from severe coronary artery disease, but the report recommended an external peer review to determine whether the death was related to tapering opioid medication.
Tom Blackburn, public affairs officer at the VA Northern Indiana System, said the network has now implemented a policy requiring all providers to have a face-to-face discussion and dialog with their patients for their opioid management so veterans are aware of any changes to their prescriptions.
He said an audit team is also conducting a monthly audit at the Peru clinic to check records or veterans’ opioid management to ensure compliance with Northern VA System’s requirements.