The latest push in combating the opioid crisis


OREGON - The number of prescriptions is declining in Oregon, and new regulations from the FDA hope to keep opioids away from children.

Oregon has one of the highest rates of opioid misuse in the country, but the latest numbers from the Oregon Health Authority, and new regulations from the FDA show sings of progress in combating the national crisis.

The FDA just announced new labeling rules for cough and cold medicines that contain opioids, like codeine and hydrocodone. The FDA says kids shouldn't be taking these types of drugs at all, and adults need to know the serious risks involved.

A decade ago, cough syrups containing opioids, like codeine, were a common cure for sick kids. Today, very rarely do doctors prescribe them.

In fact, the FDA just released new labeling guidelines to limit the use of these medications for all ages, especially kids, whose sometimes fast metabolism makes them more vulnerable.

"They get very high doses in their system right away which can slow their breathing or even cause them to stop breathing which in rare situations can be fatal," said Dr. Emily Dalton, a Pediatrician with Eugene Pediatric Associates.

It's also the latest push to prevent addiction in a growing opioid crisis.

"There's certainly more focus on it, and more pressure on providers to comply with standards and avoid these medications when they're not indicated," said Dr. Damon Armitage, with Camas Swale Medical. "We certainly pay more attention."

Opioid prescription in general is on the decline in Oregon.

The Oregon Health Authority reports that 262 opioid prescriptions per 1,000 people in 2015 is now down to 201 prescriptions.

"There are alternatives out there that are less dangerous and don't have addictive or abuse potential," said Dr. Damon.

For cough and cold medicine, pharmacist Brennan Black says there are opioid-free prescription options like Robitussin and Tessalon, which tend to be the more preferred product for prescribers.

All are very common with plenty in stock, while the opioid-based cough treatments are so rate that some doctors only have a couple of bottles on hand.

Doctors say in very severe cases, like patients battling multiple diseases, they will prescribe them. Otherwise, they say the risks aren't worth the benefits.

Dr. Armitage says these initiatives aren't just for patients. With cough syrup, for example, we might take it for a few days and then leave it in the medicine cabinet, which is how medications sometimes end up in the wrong hands. Limiting the prescriptions lessens those chances.

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