Taking the lead in opioid safety

Opioid overdoses killed more than 42,000 people in the United States in 2016,1 and workplace problems related to prescription drug use — such as absenteeism, impaired performance, workplace injuries — affect 70% of employers.2 Kaiser Permanente has been actively working to ensure safe use of opioids since 2010, and we achieved a 40% drop in opioid prescriptions from 2011 to 2016.

Our proactive and multidisciplinary approach to opioid use has several components:

Patient care and support

Our providers receive up-to-date training in pain management, including:

  • Limiting overall opioid prescriptions and prescribing lower doses and shorter courses when opioids are medically necessary.
  • Prescribing opioids safely when they’re needed, and closely monitoring patients through regular office visits, phone calls, and drug screenings.
  • Helping patients on opioid medications reduce and discontinue use and providing effective pain management alternatives.
  • Utilizing electronic medical record “red flags” to avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Patient education

Our providers are trained to be front-line educators. They are guided by the latest research done by Kaiser Permanente’s regional and national research institutes, as well as other research organizations.

When recent studies showed that the risk of overdose is 4 times higher if you’re taking opioids and benzodiazepines together, Kaiser Permanente joined a national effort to spread the word.

Controlling costs

Our Specialty Pharmacy provides ongoing support for patients on high-cost specialty drugs, and we forego use of brand-name opioids whenever possible.
More details on Kaiser Permanente’s proactive approach to opioid management.
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. 2 National Safety Council, 2017.

All plans offered and underwritten by Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington or Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Options, Inc.

© 2022 Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington