Skip to Main Content
(215) 567-3500

Call Us, We Can Help.

New Guidelines Help Emergency Room Doctors Limit Use of Pain Medications

Unfortunately, emergency rooms have become a prime place for patients seeking prescriptions for pain medicine, often for reasons unrelated to illness or injury. Recently, Temple University Hospital made significant headway in identifying patients who were obtaining prescriptions for inappropriate uses, which helps limit the number of prescriptions of opioid drugs like Percocet, Dilaudid, and Vicodin that are written by doctors. Essentially, the hospital created a set of guidelines that can help emergency room doctors determine whether a prescription is actually appropriate.

The Guidelines

In an updated version of the hospital’s guidelines, emergency physicians are directed to:

  • Prescribe the least addictive medications when possible;
  • Refuse to prescribe long-acting opioids like OxyContin;
  • Write prescriptions that do not exceed seven days’ worth;
  • Decline to prescribe additional opioids for a condition that was previously treated in the department or by another physician;
  • Refuse to replace lost or stolen prescriptions for controlled substances;
  • Arrange for refills to be made with the primary prescribing physician;
  • Decline to prescribe opioids for dental and back pain, migraines, gastroparesis, or chronic abdominal/pelvic pain;
  • Consider drug screening to guide their decisions; and
  • Refer patients with suspected addictive behavior to detoxification institutions.


The results of the imposed guidelines were promising, with prescriptions for unspecified chronic pain, dental, neck, or back pain, for which opioids are not recommended, dropping over 20 percent almost immediately. Of even more significance was the fact that the improvement in prescribing practices continued after the immediate drop in percentage of prescriptions filled. Over a six month period, the opioid prescription rate for patients was holding at 33.8 percent, which was far below the original 52.7 percent.

Prescription Medications and Personal Injury

One important method that physicians use to stay on top of new developments in the medical world is researching studies from other hospitals and medical institutions. Thus, it is important that emergency room doctors are aware of the results of the implemented Temple Guidelines.  However, while the guidelines have proven effective on a small scale, it is unclear whether such a strategy would work on the emergency room system as a whole. Critics argue that guidelines are not enough for long-term change and that more focus needs to be placed on creating strong networks of substance abuse counseling and treatment for mental health problems.

Though the experiment has seemingly been a success at one particular hospital, it may be completely inappropriate at another. This means that if another hospital adopts the practice, a patient may be inappropriately refused or prescribed a medication, leading to health problems or unnecessary pain and suffering.

Patients injured in such a manner may have recourse to compensation through a medical malpractice suit, but can still undergo significant physical and mental suffering in the meantime, some of which is non-compensable.

Call an Attorney Today

If you have been the victim of an injury due to medical error based on an improperly prescribed medication, we may be able to help you recover damages. Please contact an experienced Philadelphia medical malpractice attorney at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., for a free consultation.

Contact us for your consultation (215) 567-3500