A New Kind of Office Visit to Reduce Opioid Overdoses

Borrowing a classic pharmaceutical sales technique, a group of doctors and pharmacists in California are catching medical providers between patients to talk about opioid prescribing habits, reports the Washington Post. This practice, known as “academic detailing,” a play on the pharma industry’s “pharmaceutical detailing,” is a promising new approach to curbing the opioid epidemic by helping to educate providers on opioid prescribing best practices. Academic detailing has also been used elsewhere to teach providers about when antibiotics are unnecessary and the side effects and costs of Alzheimer’s disease medications.

“I view it as peer education,” said Mary Meengs, MD, one of the project’s 10 trained detailers. “They [providers] don’t have to attend a lecture half an hour away. I’m doing it at [their] convenience.”

The project targets medical providers in California’s most rural areas, where opioid deaths and prescribing rates are high and doctors have less opportunity to learn about alternative treatments. Team members bring binders of resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to talk one-on-one with clinicians about prescription painkillers, medication-assisted treatment for addiction, and the appropriate circumstances for prescribing naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

“Academic detailing is a sales pitch, an evidence-based … sales pitch,” said Phillip Coffin, MD, director of substance-use research at San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. “One-on-one time with the providers, even if it was just three or four minutes, was hugely beneficial,” Coffin said of a previous San Francisco-based detailing effort that saw naloxone prescribing increase elevenfold. Team members focus their educational efforts on a provider’s concerns for specific patients rather than on lecturing. The two-year project, which costs less than $2 million, is funded by the federal “Prevention for States” program to combat prescription drug overdoses.

To read the full story, click here:

To access educational webinars, click here, and white papers on opioids and other substances of abuse, click here: