Family Medicine in the News

Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine talks about the availability of medication-assisted treatment for people dealing with opioid and other chemical dependency issues and whether there are enough qualified physicians to treat them. “Right now, the physician workforce is the limiting step,” he said. “It’s relatively easy to build buildings and make more beds, and relatively easy to hire nurses to staff them. But a lot of agencies in Western New York are hamstrung in their ability to provide enhanced services by the lack of physician resources.”
An article about the opioid crisis and the rising number of people who are dying from overdoses interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, who said the opioid crisis is an epidemic of our own making and that prescription rates have skyrocketed, fueled in part by hospitals and doctors trying to treat chronic pain rather than the underlying symptoms. “Long-term, it’s going to be 20 years before we dig ourselves out of the hole that we made,” he said. “Some aspects of [the crisis] are getting worse.”
Cities across the U.S. have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies that make opioids for their role in the epidemic of addiction that has caused an extraordinary number of fatalities. “I was practicing at that period of time and I do remember getting visits from reps from pharmaceutical companies, and they were saying that if somebody has ‘real pain’ they’re not going to get addicted,” said Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine
“The Opioid Epidemic,” a one-hour PBS documentary that traces the causes behind the unprecedented growth in the use of prescription opioids and the devastating impact these drugs are having in virtually every part of the nation, interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine  and vice chair of addiction medicine. “I think some physicians don’t appreciate how potent these drugs are,” he said, “and don’t necessarily appreciate how many problems they can create.” 
Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, is interviewed for an article about the Total Freedom program in Darien Center that combines structure, healthier guidance and religion to help people overcome addiction. Blondell called the program one of several reasonable models. “I don’t pass judgment on any program if it’s working for the individual,” Blondell said.
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences faculty members weighed in on how to stay healthy in the new year in an article on resolutions. Anne B. Curtis, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Charles and Mary Bauer Professor and Chair of Medicine, said: “If you find you have been too sedentary, figure out when you can fit in 10 minutes of walking to start.” Priyanka Patnaik, MD, medical director at UBMD Family Medicine at Conventus and a clinical assistant professor of family medicine, suggested taking an hour a day “to relax and let go of all the stress of work, maybe spend some time meditating or doing yoga.”
The first opiate intervention court in the country has been operating since May 1 in Buffalo City Court. The new court is being funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the treatment programs are under the administration of Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine, along with Horizon Health Services and the HOPE Program.
Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine, and vice chair of addiction medicine, was interviewed for a story about the opioid crisis and a new indictment against a local pain management physician. He said overprescribing medications is partly to blame for the opioid epidemic. “The promotion of drugs to physicians by pharmaceutical companies or the representatives that encourage physicians to overprescribe is what got us into this mess,” Blondell said.
Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, commented on President Trump’s declaration that the opioid crisis is a public health emergency. He noted Trump said a lot of the right things in his speech although it was light on specifics. “The proof will be in the pudding,” he said. “It’s like a bunch of kids drowning in a river — we need to go upstream and find out why they’re drowning in the first place. We need to do something so that doctors stop prescribing people into addiction.”
The global Physicians for Human Rights organization trains health care providers in physical, gynecological and psychological forensic evaluation for asylum seekers. Kim Griswold, MD, associate professor of family medicine, says Buffalo is a popular location for asylum seekers for several reasons. “One is that we have the largest shelter in the United States for asylum seekers, Vive La Casa. Also we have a lot of local resources, like the Center for Survivors, that are able to identify folks seeking asylum.”
An article on the opioid epidemic in Western New York interviews Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, who said that when Prescription Monitoring Programs started to take effect, a vast population of addicts began turning to heroin. “When doctors stopped prescribing licit drugs to these patients, they turned to the illicit market where diverted prescription drugs and highly potent illegal drugs were becoming more available at lower costs,” he said.
Buffalo is home to the nation’s first opioid crisis intervention court, which can get users into treatment within hours of their arrest instead of days. The program is funded by a three-year, $300,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department, which pays for a coordinator and case managers from UB Family Medicine, who enforce curfews, do wellness checks and transport patients.
Richard D. Blondell, MD, professor of family medicine and vice chair of addiction medicine, and Torin J. Finver, MD, clinical instructor of family medicine and program director for the addiction medicine fellowship, were interviewed about a proposal that would send those going through opiate withdrawal home to detoxify. “It is an interesting concept that should be funded. However, it would be important to also collect data to evaluate its effectiveness in the real world,” Blondell said.  
Match Day, when medical students find out where they will do their clinical training, was an anxious one for international medical students headed to Buffalo due to the president's travel ban. Roseanne C. Berger, MD, senior associate dean for graduate medical education, and Christopher P. Schaeffer, MD, assistant professor of medicine, were both featured in the piece.
Getting a handle on the opioid epidemic can be accomplished, but it will take time and it won't be easy, according to Richard Blondell, MD, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine. Blondell spoke on the topic at Genesee Community College in Batavia as part of an opioids and addiction seminar, hosted by the Genesee Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.