Attorney General talks opioids with local doctors

Local News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – In the Bariatric Unit at Roper St. Francis, doctors have been working to make sure they’re prescribing less opioids to their patients than they have in the past. Friday morning the Attorney General stopped by to hear about their progress.

“We’re acting as leaders for something that anybody can do. We want to be responsible when it comes to surgeons and as doctors to decrease opioids on our side. We don’t want to leave it to law enforcement to catch people after they’ve become addicted or after a problem as developed. Our goal is to keep that from happening,” said bariatric surgeon Dr. Bryan Thomas.

Last year in the bariatric unit, about 76 patients were sent home with opioid prescriptions. This year, that number is down to three.

“We set expectations right off the bat, and then as they come into the hospital we do things even in a pre-operative time, where they’ll swallow a non-opiate pain medication such as Tylenol. That gets things started correctly. Then intra-operatively we do a lot to make sure we don’t ever get them in pain. We try to do what we can to keep the person from experiencing pain intra-operatively. Post-operatively there’s lots that we can do with medications such as Toradol and Gabapentin and IV Tylenol and things that are non-opiate, they’re very effective,” Thomas said.

“traditionally, when we created pain, we gave an opioid to cure that pain. We now know that if we approach pain from many different avenues, what we can do is not only reduce the amount of opioids the patients need post-operatively, we can also decrease the amount of pain those people have,” Dr. Jeffrey Frohock, Physician Leader for Opioid Reduction Strategy.

These doctors say it’s about getting ahead of and keeping up with the pain, not trying to catch up to it.

The doctors also say their patients are not suffering without opioids.

“Our patients, their satisfaction with post-operative course, their comfort after surgery all increased together. I’ll tell you our patients are sometimes surprised, oftentimes very pleasantly surprised, with how little pain they’re having,” Thomas said.

While a lot of the opioid problem involves illegal drugs, when it comes to the war on drugs, the Attorney General Alan Wilson says this is a good battle plan. 

“I want to start a partnership with you all and continue to work with you to promote this. Give me my marching orders,” Wilson said.

Wilson says he wants to see both doctors he met with Friday in Columbia to testify.

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