Med students, Baker discuss pain management

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STATE HOUSE — In the latest attempt to showcase support for his approach to the opioid crisis, Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday met with medical students who backed up his effort to codify the teaching of pain management and safe prescribing practices in medical school curriculums.

Baker, who plans to testify for his opioid bill Monday with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, last week announced he had reached agreement with the state’s four medical schools to standardize the teaching of pain management as part of the core curriculum for future doctors. Baker said that in the conversations that led to the agreement he learned that most schools offered instruction on pain management, but the amount of time and focus varied by school and discipline.

The seven students who met with the governor in his office reached out to Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel with interest in adding their voice to the debate.

“We want to be a generation of physicians that can tackle the opioid crisis head on,” said Helen Jack, a second-year medical student at Harvard University.

Baker said the students shared with him stories that confirmed “enormous variation among practitioners about what they know and understand about this stuff.”

The governor’s legislation includes sections that would limit the quantity of opioids that can be prescribed to most patients to a 72-hour supply, and mandates continuing education credits in pain management for all prescribers.

The Massachusetts Medical Society on Thursday released new guidelines for physicians encouraging prescribers to “recommend opioids in the smallest possible dose for the shortest period of time, to consider alternatives to opioids for treatment of pain, and to review the society’s free offerings of continuing medical education courses on pain management and opioid prescribing.”

Baker said he’s encouraged that the medical community is taking steps to police itself, but said, “I would really like something that’s got a little more strength to it than a guideline.”

Bharel also said that the governor’s recommendation for continuing education would expand the current licensure requirements to five hours from three hours of courses on pain management, and would apply to nurse practitioners and other prescribers, not just doctors.

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service