Orcas Medical Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Tony Giefer, will be a faculty consultant and presenter on Oct. 30 in Seattle for a statewide University of Washington/Washington State University course on “Training Rural Physicians to Manage Opioid Addiction.”
According to Roger A Rosenblatt, MD, MPH, Vice Chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine, “The problem of opioid-seeking patients in family practices and emergency rooms is a source of enormous frustration. Once a person becomes addicted to opioids, it is very difficult if not impossible for them to withdraw without long-term treatment.”
Methadone, the most common treatment, is unavailable in rural areas, according to Rosenblatt, but now there is a viable alternative for rural physicians.
“In 2000, the federal government allowed the outpatient use of buprenorphine (Suboxone or Subutex) to manage opioid addiction,” Rosenblatt said.
Dr. Giefer added, “Suboxone is a safer, more effective and more convenient alternative to Methodone. Suboxone can be offered in a regular clinical setting, such as Orcas Medical Center, and treatment can be managed with a monthly prescription rather than daily visits to a Methadone dispensing site.”
The Oct. 30 course will teach rural physicians and a member of their practice staff how to use Suboxone and allow physicians to receive legal permission to prescribe the medication.
“As of 2010, only 32 rural doctors in Washington State had received the federal waiver that allows them to prescribe Suboxone,” said Rosenblatt.
Dr. Giefer has been certified and treating patients in this manner since 2007.
Following the course, each rural physician who attends and is certified to prescribe Suboxone will be paired with an expert mentor, such as Dr. Giefer, who is one of the faculty in the course.