Pen Bay docs make dramatic cuts in opioid prescriptions

By Stephen Betts | Aug 03, 2019

Rockport — The number of patients being prescribed pain medication and the amount being dispensed have dropped dramatically in the past few years, Pen Bay Medical Center announced Friday, Aug. 2.

"Through compassionate conversations with patients about pain management, Pen Bay Medical Center has seen a 62.7 percent decrease in opioid doses prescribed since 2015 and a 33 percent drop in total number of patients receiving opioid prescriptions," the hospital said in a statement issued after the Courier-Gazette asked for a comment concerning a national Drug Enforcement Administration database, which was analyzed by the Washington Post, about the distribution of opiate prescriptions nationwide.

The report showed that, from 2006 through 2012, nearly 11 million pain pills were supplied to patients in Knox County. This amounted to an average of 38 pills per person per year.

Rates in Maine varied from a low of 35 pills per person on average each year in Sagadahoc County to 56 for people in Penobscot County during that seven-year stretch.

The Washington Post developed the analysis to document to the extent of the opiate addiction epidemic in the United States.

Rockland and Knox County filed lawsuits in May against opioid manufacturers and other parties the local governments maintain should be financially liable for pushing their drugs and creating an addiction epidemic.

Those include some of the top manufacturers of the pills that ended up being distributed to Knox County residents, including Actavis Pharma, which manufactured 2,189,000 of the pills that ended up in Knox County, and Purdue Pharma, which manufactured 350,360 pills that were distributed in  the county.

Distributors were also named in the lawsuit, including Cardinal Health, Rite Aid of Maine, and Walmart Inc. of Arkansas.

From 2006 through 2012, the Wal-Mart pharmacy in Thomaston filled the most pain pill prescriptions, with a total of 1,934,100 pills being supplied to patients, out of the 10,867,450 pills supplied countywide during those seven years.

Miller Drug in Bangor supplied the most pills of any pharmacy in the state, at 4,573,470.

In Knox County, the Hannaford pharmacy in Rockland issued the second-most pain pills during the period, at 1,845,920; Rite Aid in Rockland was third, at 1,729,580; Pharmacy Acquisition Inc. of Rockland was fourth at 1,585,080; and Kennebec Pharmacy and Homecare in Rockport tied for fifth, at 1,435,360.

“In recent years, there has been a clinical shift based on evidence, practice, policy and law,” said Dr. Kendra Emery, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and department chair of family health and medical director of community health. “But I do not think policies alone drove this change in prescribing. I give credit to our providers, who for more than five years have been having challenging and compassionate conversations with their patients about pain management. Moreover, the hospital had good polices in place even before the more recent changes to state laws and CDC guidelines.”

Clinicians are offering safer ways to manage pain, and they have also prioritized the need to treat patients who are showing signs and symptoms of opioid use disorder, the hospital said.

A hub-and-spoke model of addiction treatment, developed with Maine Behavioral Healthcare in Rockland, has been put in use, Pen Bay noted. New patients are being accepted at the hub with ongoing medication-assisted treatment being offered in four Pen Bay Medical Center primary care practices.

"Despite the 15 percent drop in overdose deaths in Maine in 2018, too many Mainers are still affected by this disease. As such, a standing order for Naloxone is available at the pharmacy at Pen Bay Medical Center. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that is used to counter the effects of drugs like heroin and prescription narcotics. This means that any patient can ask for Naloxone without a prescription," Pen Bay stated.

A free community Naloxone education session is planned for Sept. 25 at Rockland Congregational Church from 5:30 to 7 p.m. There are also free doses of Naloxone due to arrive from the state that will be distributed through Pen Bay Medical Center practices and its emergency room as soon as they are available.

“We have made significant progress in reducing opioid prescriptions in the community, but there is still much work to do,” Emery said. “We are working hard to create a culture of compassion, safety and support around the use of opioids, opioid use disorder and chronic pain management.”

Comments (2)
Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Aug 04, 2019 10:55

Dale-  Here's another observation.


“It is scary how many similarities there are between this [pharmaceutical] industry and the mob. The mob makes obscene amounts of money, as does this industry. The side effects of organized crime are killings and deaths, and the side effects are the same in this industry. The mob bribes politicians and others, and so does the drug industry …” ~ former Vice-President of Pfizer pharmaceuticals


If you believe pharmaceutical corporations hold the health of the general public in high regard, it’s time to reconsider. The industry is filled with examples of wrongful death, extortion, fraud, corruption, obstruction of justice, embezzlement, fake journals, harassment and hit lists that would make even the most hardened Mafia godfather blush. Big Pharma has been fined billions by the U.S. Department of Justice, but these enormous fines don’t curb the corruption, it’s just looked upon as “the cost of doing business,” similar to paying the utilities.


As a physician and researcher, Peter C Gøtzsche has firsthand experience with the criminality behind the pharmaceutical industry — and subsequently exposed the massive fraud in “Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How Big Pharma Has Corrupted Healthcare.”

Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Aug 04, 2019 08:58

Dale, it is safe to say that, as a rule, pharmaceutical and medical device companies offer rebates, lunches, educational support, and other perks to doctors and medical practices to get themselves noticed and prescribed. Sometimes the amounts are trivial and sometimes they're meaningful.


It is possible for you to look up all payments made to your own doctor since 2013 and decide for yourself whether the amounts are meaningful. I looked up my orthopedic surgeon and did not see anything meaningful with respect to opioid drugs, but the doctor was paid to be part of a medical device implant study, and he received royalty payments for patents he holds for another device.


Here is a search link:

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