GPs working hard to limit opioid use for patients, but need access to alternative treatments, says College

Publication date: 13 February 2018

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, has responded to a study from the BJGP about opioid use.

She said: "Addiction to any substance can have a potentially life-changing effect on a person's health and wellbeing, which is why GPs will carefully consider the risks of a drug before prescribing it to a patient.

"While some prescribed medication has been shown to be addictive, many of these drugs, when used appropriately and in conjunction with established clinical guidelines, are safe to use and can, most importantly, help relieve patients from debilitating and painful symptoms.

"Patients are also made aware of any potential risks and side effects of taking any new medication – regardless of whether it is a known addictive drug or not – and consulted about if they think it is right for them. Additionally, all medication newly issued to a patient should have an information leaflet provided by the dispensing pharmacist.

"Understanding the risks of taking these drugs is especially important if they are being prescribed as part of a long-term medication programme, which, as this research shows, has increased in parts of the UK recently.

"However, most patients don't want to be on long-term prescriptions and, where possible, GPs will always try to explore non-pharmacological treatments – but these are often hard to come by at a community level, leaving family doctors with few alternatives that are still of equal benefit to the patient.

"We need to ensure that GPs and their teams continue to work with patients by encouraging them to attend the regular medication reviews that they are invited to, and that, crucially, these drugs are only prescribed for the shortest amount of time, which is tailored to the individual."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7633/7574/7575
Out of hours: 0203 188 765

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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