University of Vermont Medical Center doctors have dramatically reduced the amount of opiates they prescribe, the hospital announced Thursday.
In the third quarter of 2018, physicians issued 44 percent fewer prescriptions for more than 50 pills than they did in the same quarter in 2017. Since 2016, the medical center has registered a 71 percent decline in those prescriptions, the hospital said.
State health officials and law enforcement leaders have urged the medical community to curb prescribed opiates as Vermonters struggle with abuse of the drugs, and fatal overdoses have reached record highs.
The hospital has instituted voluntary guidelines for maximum daily doses, tracks physicians' prescribing rates and shares information about those rates with physicians.
“Doctors are having real conversations with their patients about treatment for their pain, and talking about possible alternatives to opiates,” said Stephen Leffler, chief population health and quality officer for the University of Vermont Health Network.