njbiz.com: Change course


Just a month since its launch, an online course designed to help prescribers avoid unnecessary opioid use is getting positive feedback.

In June, the Partnership for a Drug-Free NJ in collaboration with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey through its philanthropic arm, The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, unveiled a course that satisfies a new state-mandated continuing education requirement for all prescribers.

The idea is to help the state’s health professionals more safely prescribe opioid medications only to those who really need them.

The program, a webinar titled Do No Harm: Exploring Strategies for Safer Prescribing of Opioids, targets any health professional authorized to prescribe in New Jersey. That list includes doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, residents and fellows, medical students, oral surgeons and dentists.

The webinar is part of Knock Out Opioid Abuse, a two-year initiative from PDFNJ and Horizon BCBSNJ.

A 2017 law requires all health care professionals in New Jersey who prescribe opioid drugs to successfully complete a one-hour continuing education course on safe prescribing as a condition for renewing their license to practice.

We are very excited about this program because we think that the partnership provides a very objective and unbiased perspective on this issue. Our only concern and interest is the protection of patients.
– Angelo Valente

Angelo Valente, executive director of PDFNJ said that so far reaction to the program from the provider community has been encouraging.

“We are very excited about this program because we think that the partnership provides a very objective and unbiased perspective on this issue. Our only concern and interest is the protection of patients,” Valente told NJBIZ.

“It gives the medical community the opportunity to learn about the history of the epidemic and ways in which they can help stem the tide. Everyone has a role if we’re going to really see progress on the opioid epidemic,” Valente added.

Angelo Valente, executive director, Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.


“We looked at the prescriber education from not only a medical perspective but a legal perspective. We have an attorney and we also partner with law enforcement – a representative with DEA.”

Valente described the approach as a way for the medical community to take an active part in the solution that includes less prescribing and awareness of the addictive qualities of opioids, as well as possible alternatives.

“We don’t just look at the medical text book part of the drug but how the epidemic affects the community and law enforcement,” he said.

Jonathan Pearson, executive director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, said that opioid abuse prevention efforts should start right in a clinical setting, whether it’s a doctor’s office, dental practice, hospital or other health care environment.

“That’s why Horizon sought to work with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey to engage all prescribers in best practices for safe and effective prescribing for pain management and to assist them in complying with a statutory mandate for prescriber education. We’re pleased with how the prescriber education program was created and how it is being received by the prescriber community,” Pearson explained.

“The important part of the message that we are seeing – from the CDC and the surgeon general – it is crucial to look at alternatives to opioids as a first line defense especially in addressing acute pain and in adolescents,” Valente said.

Opioids, he added, affect the way the brain functions and if a child is exposed to an opioid before high school they are 33 percent more likely to be addicted to heroin in adulthood.

While opioids are appropriate in post-operative use and for trauma injuries, Valente said they should be prescribed on a limited basis

“Health care providers need to understand the addictive nature of the drug. Education is essential,” Valente said.