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Two New Prescribing Guidelines to Address Substance Use Crisis in PA

By PA Dept of Health

Two New Prescribing Guidelines to Address Substance Use Crisis in PA

Harrisburg, PA – Wolf Administration officials announced that two new prescribing guidelines, Guidelines for the Safe Administration of Subanesthetic Ketamine and Treatment of Acute and Chronic Pain in Patients With Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) have been published to assist physicians working to treat patients.

“These two prescribing guidelines developed by the Safe and Effective Prescribing Task Force are the latest available to assist healthcare providers as they treat their patients,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “These guidelines bring the total number to 14 available to physicians as they work to treat people who are already dealing with the disease of addiction. It is important that physicians look at a wide range of therapies as they work to treat these subsets of the population.”

The ketamine guideline differs from previous prescribing guidelines by addressing administration of a non-opioid. The ketamine guideline provides best practices for the subanesthetic administration of Ketamine for a variety of conditions. This includes recommendations for the treatment team, treatment location, patient selection, and patient monitoring.

The SCD guideline provides best practices to treat acute painful crises that occur with SCD patients as well as best practices for chronic pain care. The SCD guideline addresses the specific needs of that patient population. This can help prevent the misapplication of recommendations to populations that are outside the scope of other prescribing guidelines, including patients experiencing acute sickle cell crises. It is especially important to have resources specifically for the treatment of SCD patients as this patient population often experiences racial disparities and stigma.

“Health care professionals play a vital role in combatting the opioid crisis,” said Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Jen Smith. “The reality is that even individuals with opioid use disorder experience chronic pain and need treatment plans that meet their unique needs. We must give physicians the tools to adequately treat individuals living with substance use disorder to ensure they can lead happy, healthy lives.”

The Opioid Command Center, established in January 2018 when Governor Tom Wolf signed the first opioid disaster declaration, continues to meet each week to discuss the opioid crisis. The command center is staffed by personnel from 17 state agencies, spearheaded by the departments of Health and Drug and Alcohol Programs.

On July 6, the Opioid Command Center released its strategic plan, highlighting accomplishments to date and providing a roadmap for the continued work to help those with substance use disorder. The plan, available here, includes five goal areas: prevention, rescue, treatment, recovery and sustainability.

Work to address the opioid crisis focuses on three areas: prevention, rescue and treatment. Efforts over the past several years, working with state agencies, local, regional and federal officials, have resulted in significant action to address the opioid crisis:

More information on the opioid crisis can be found on the Department of Health’s website at