Telling GPs to ‘think twice’ about prescribing opioids may prevent tens of thousands of patients from getting hooked on them, research suggests.
Experts have for years warned Britain is on track for a US-style opioid crisis, with the number of strong painkiller prescriptions dished out having doubled over the past two decades.
Officials have tried cracking down on the prescription of the drugs – such as codeine and Tramadol – among concerns about addition and dependence.
But a simple messaging campaign tailored specifically at GPs could help tackle the problem, according to academics at the University of Leeds.
It was trialled in West Yorkshire and led to 15,000 fewer patients prescribed opioids over the course of a year. And the campaign saved the NHS £700,000, calculations suggested.
If rolled out nationally, the experts estimated it could lead to 406,000 fewer people getting prescribed the powerful drugs. And it would save the health service around £18.5million.
The ‘feedback’ intervention gave GPs updates every other month on the number of people at their practice being prescribed opioids.
Family doctors enrolled in the trial were reminded of the need to be cautious about starting people on opioids.
And they were sent ‘persuasive messaging’ and asked to review whether to take people off the drugs when they provided no benefit.
From 1998 to 2018, the number of opioids prescriptions issued by GPs in England more than doubled. The NHS now spends more than £260million per year on the drugs.