A group of 35 orthopedic surgeons in Western New York are teaming up to help end the opioid epidemic.
The doctors are from eight different practices including UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Excelsior Orthopaedics, Northtowns Orthopedics, Pinnacle Orthopedics, Knee Center of WNY, Lakeshore Orthopedic Group, Buffalo Medical Group and WNY Knee & Orthopaedic Center.
They have created guidelines for prescribing drugs after orthopedic surgical procedures. Those guidelines were distributed to all orthopedic surgeons in Western New York.
"Patients will take about half of the pills that are prescribed to them after orthopedic surgeries and then the other problem is they don't kno what to do with the extra," Professor & Chair of Orthopaedic Surgery at UBMD, Dr. Les Bisson said.
Tens of thousands of opioids go unused each year after orthopedic surgeries in Western New York. Doctors fear those opioids are finding their way to addicts and children. That's why they're hoping that by reducing the number of pills they prescribe, they will help curb the overdose crisis.
The number of overdose deaths in Erie County is dropping. New numbers show there were 301 opioid related deaths in 2016. Last year, there were 242, with 18 cases pending.
Erie County Health Commissioner, Dr. Gail Burstein said it's great news that doctors are getting in front of this epidemic. However, she would like to see more non-opioid drugs used instead of opioids.
"We've seen that in the past year and a half that Hydrocodone a narcotic pain medication has dropped from the number one prescribed medication in Erie County to number five," Dr. Burstein said.
Bisson said by reducing the amount of opioids they prescribe, there will be 150,000 less pills on the streets of Western New York each year. Doctors say they're also researching alternatives to prevent patients from taking painkillers at all.
Erie County offers drop off locations for people who want to get rid of opioids and needles. Find the locations by going to www2.erie.gov .