Pennsylvania Physician General and Dauphin County Coroner Discuss Benzodiazepine Prescribing Guidelines

Wednesday, May 17, 2017 General News
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HARRISBURG, Pa., May 16, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Physician General Dr. Rachel Levine

met with Dauphin County Coroner Graham Hetrick to discuss the Wolf Administration's prescribing guidelines for opioids and benzodiazepines and the opioid epidemic's devastating effects
on Pennsylvanians.

"The combination of opioid painkillers with a benzodiazepine medications, like Xanax or Valium, can be deadly," said Dr. Levine. "With Governor Wolf's leadership, we are working with medical professionals to protect Pennsylvanians from the risk of overdose to save lives and make our communities safer. I thank Coroner Hetrick and his team for helping us spread this message."

Benzodiazepines, sometimes called "benzos," can be prescribed for treating aliments such as panic disorder, insomnia, and seizures. When used in conjunction with opioids, studies find that the chances for an accidental drug overdose increase.

Working with the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, the Department of Health has created a set of evidence-based, specialty-specific opioid prescribing guidelines to encourage judicious prescribing of the medication and reduce the number of opioids in distribution. The departments have completed the following guidelines:

  • Opioids to Treat Chronic Noncancer Pain;
  • Emergency Department Pain Treatment Guidelines;
  • Opioids in Dental Practice;
  • Opioid Dispensing Guidelines;
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology Pain Treatment;
  • Geriatric Pain;
  • The Treatment of Pregnant Mothers with Opioid Use Disorder;
  • Safe Prescribing of Benzodiazepines for Acute Treatment of Anxiety and Insomnia; and
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.

"As coroner, I see far too often the deadly and devastating effects of the opioid epidemic," said Coroner Hetrick. "The disease of addiction takes lives and destroys families. With compassion, team work, and practicality, we aim to break the malicious grip addiction has on so many of our neighborhoods."

The Wolf Administration holds the fight against heroin and prescription opioids as a top priority.  To continue the battle against the opioid epidemic in Pennsylvania, Governor Wolf included the following proposals in his 2017-18 budget:

  • Expanding access to life-saving naloxone by providing $10 million through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to first responders, law enforcement, and other public entities across the commonwealth;
  • Maximizing federal Cures Act funding, which includes $26.2 million in each of the next two years for Pennsylvania, to expand access to treatment services, particularly for individuals who are uninsured or underinsured; and
  • Providing $3.4 million to expand specialty drug courts to expand treatment strategies that divert offenders into more meaningful treatment and recovery.

Some of the administration's other initiatives to fight the opioid epidemic include:

  • Working with the legislature to establish a new law limiting the number of opioids that can be prescribed to a minor and to individuals discharged from emergency rooms to seven days;
  • Strengthening the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) through the legislative process so that doctors are required and able to check the system each time they prescribe opioids and benzodiazepines;
  • Forming new prescribing guidelines to help doctors who provide opioid prescriptions to their patients, including guidelines specific to orthopedics and sports medicine;
  • Creating the warm handoff guideline to facilitate referrals from the emergency department to substance abuse treatment;
  • Teaming with the legislature to establish education curriculum on safe prescribing for medical schools;
  • Educating and encouraging patients to properly use, store and dispose of unused prescription medications through drug take-back initiatives, and expanding the number of drug take-back locations to more than 500; and
  • Increasing the availability of naloxone.

The main function of the Dauphin County Coroner's office is to determine the cause and manner of death in cases where the death is determined to fall under coroner jurisdiction. The coroner's office investigators and staff treat each death with respect, dignity, and kindness.

If you or someone you know is suffering from the disease of addiction, call 1-800-662-HELP or visit for treatment options. For more information on the fight against opioid abuse in Pennsylvania, visit the Department of Health website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: April Hutcheson, 717-787-1783 or

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health


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