Dr. Maria Garcia in Worcester Business Journal: Opioids should not be used to treat chronic pain

June 28, 2016

Opioids are very effective for acute pain resulting from an injury or surgery, but they should not be used to treat chronic pain, a UMass Medical School opioids expert tells Worcester Business Journal’s Health quarterly.

“If you have someone who has an acute pain from injury, or comes into the hospital in the emergency room, or certainly after an operation, opioids … are effective, they act quickly, they really help pain. The only thing that we are cautious about is making sure we assess the need for these medications, and that we appropriately treat them with the target of relieving pain,” Maria Garcia, MD, MPH, medical director of Clinical Pharmacy Services, a unit within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, said in the summer issue of Health.

While opioids are helpful for acute pain, they should not be used to treat chronic pain, said Dr. Garcia, an associate professor in the Department of Medicine and an associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at UMass Medical School.

“In terms of management of long-term chronic pain, the evidence is lacking for opioids being on the forefront in treatment,” she said in the article. In her role as medical director for Clinical Pharmacy Services, Garcia has implemented medication management initiatives such as targeted opioid case management for Medicaid programs.

In a recent panel discussion, outgoing Massachusetts Medical Society President Dennis M. Dimitri, MD, said opiates have been overprescribed for 10 to 15 years, according to the article. Dr. Dimitri is clinical associate professor and vice chair of UMass Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

“Now we’re in a situation where we need to help people transition off of these medications into other modalities for pain medication,” Erik J. Garcia, MD, an assistant professor in UMass Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, told Health. He also is a physician with UMass Memorial Community Healthlink.

Clinical Pharmacy Services has become a leader in providing customized, results-oriented solutions to containing pharmacy costs and improving patient outcomes. Through UMass Medical School, it is able to offer direct access to clinical resources and the latest research, data and trends.

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