Postoperative Opioid Prescribing Guidelines

Press release

PHILADELPHIA — This morning, Mayor Jim Kenney and Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley, flanked by surgeons from three of the major health systems in Philadelphia, announced the release of new, voluntary guidelines for surgeons to use when deciding if, and how many, opioids will be prescribed after a successful surgery. These guidelines are the first in the country that were built using evidence of actual use.

Philadelphia Tribune

Philadelphia is trying to get doctors to prescribe fewer opioids to patients recovering from surgery through voluntary guidelines published for surgeons.

If the guidelines are followed, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, far fewer opioid pills will be prescribed in the city.

By Tom MacDonald


The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. The guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.

Philadelphia is the first city to take on the task. Health Commissioner Tom Farley says other efforts to reduce opioid prescriptions have paid off, but still a survey showed they’re at historically high levels.

By Pat Loeb


The Philadelphia Health Department has taken the unusual step of developing opioid prescription guidelines for surgeons in the city, in another effort to reign in the addiction epidemic. KYW Newsradio’s City Hall bureau chief Pat Loeb reports the guidelines are based on research showing opioids may be completely unnecessary after minor surgery.

By Pat Loeb


Doctors want to keep patients out of pain following surgery, but research is showing opioids aren’t always the best option, they’re overprescribed, and too many pills end up in the wrong hands.

“With these guidelines, patients will not be suffering unnecessarily with pain,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Tom Farley.

By Stephanie Stahl


“If all the surgeons in Philadelphia use these guidelines, this will reduce the use of opioids after surgery by more than 80 percent,” he said.

The guidelines call for using non-opioid pain treatments instead, which Farley says studies show are better for pain management.

By Tom MacDonald

Naloxone Giveaway Day

Allison Herens, with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, said she started carrying Narcan when she was hired to be the city’s first harm-reduction coordinator. She attended a training on how to use it, then picked it up from a pharmacy. The next day, while riding SEPTA, she said she saw a man overdosing and administered the Narcan, saving his life.

“What most people don’t know about that story is I only actually had the medication because I went to a second pharmacy the day I went to get it,” said Herens. “The first pharmacy not only gave me pushback about using my insurance, but didn’t have it in stock.”

By Nina Feldman

In Philadelphia and in Delaware County and across the state public health workers are busy getting Naloxone into people’s hands for free.

The medication can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose if given in time.

Meg Carter of the Philadelphia Health Department said, “The more people that carry Naloxone and understand what it does and why it is important and can help.”

By John Rawlins

Meg Carter has this to say about why she believes it changes and saves lives.

“If a person’s overdosing, you don’t know what part of their journey they’re in. So they may not be ready for treatment yet but maybe tomorrow they will be. So if you are saving a person’s life and tomorrow they are ready to enter treatment, any life saved is a life saved,” Carter says.

By staff

At the Walgreens in the shadow of the SEPTA El stop at Kensington and Allegheny Avenues, the city Health Department’s harm reduction coordinator, Allison Herens, recalled the day after she decided to start carrying Naloxone, she was put to the test.

While taking SEPTA, she saw a man across the platform was overdosing.

“Using training I had literally just gotten, and the Naloxone in my bag, I was able to save his life,” she explained.

By Steve Tawa

Council Hearings on Tobacco Retailer Regulations

Health Commissioner Tom Farley will oppose the bill. He doesn’t buy the rationale.
“There was a Wawa that opened up that was above the cap, and so they didn’t get a permit. And I went and visited it and the store was absolutely thriving,” he said. “It was packed with customers and (had) a long line at the cash registers, so these stores can do quite well without selling the No. 1 cause of death in Philadelphia.”
Farley noted that cigarette sales total only a fraction of the business of stores with permits, and the bill would have a hugely negative health impact, especially in low-income neighborhoods where the density of cigarette sales is highest.

By Pat Loeb

On Wednesday, Council voted against a bill that aimed to reverse some of those regulations. The measure would have allowed a tobacco retail permit to be transferred to a new owner even if a store was near a school or exceeded the cap on the number of retailers in the area.

“We’re grateful that the City Council supported the Board of Health’s action to protect Philadelphia’s children from the marketing of the nation’s biggest killer, tobacco,” said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.

The goal of the original regulations was to curb youth smoking, a particularly big problem for Philadelphia, where more than a quarter of youths use tobacco. Although rates of cigarette smoking have dropped here as in much of the country, rates of cigar and e-cigarette use are climbing.

By Aneri Pattani

On the other side were numerous health organizations, parents and Health Commissioner Tom Farley, who said the rule is already working to reduce the number of cigarette retailers in low-income neighborhoods, where there are three times as many tobacco sellers as in other neighborhoods.
“Researchers have shown that children living in neighborhoods with more tobacco sellers are significantly more likely to start smoking, and adult smokers in those neighborhoods are less likely to quit,” Farley said.

By Pat Loeb

2018 2nd Quarter Overdose Deaths

Overdose deaths between April and June rose by about 11 percent compared with the previous two quarters.
“This still represents a kind of leveling-off in opioid-related fatalities over the last three quarters,” said Kendra Viner, manager of the Philadelphia Health Department’s opioid surveillance program. “The bad news is that we’re not seeing the decline in fatalities we’d really like to see. And if this trend continues, we’ll probably end 2018 with maybe just under the total number of fatalities that we saw in 2017.”

By Aubrey Whelan

Council Bill to Stock Naloxone

Recognizing ongoing access issues, a Philadelphia City Council committee on Tuesday recommended a bill that would require pharmacies to have at least one naloxone pack (with two doses) in stock. Council is expected to vote on the measure next week.

“We did a survey and found 25 percent of pharmacies don’t have it,” city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. “We want 100 percent to have it on hand.”

By Marie McCullough

To make the drug even more easily available, a City Council committee approved a bill mandating that all pharmacies in Philadelphia stock it. Recent studies show that fewer than half of city pharmacies do carry it.

The legislation is part of the city’s promotion and distribution of naloxone. Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said that, since June of 2017, his department has given out more than 57,000 doses of Narcan to people in a position to administer it.

By Nina Feldman

Access to Care Report

Press Release

PHILADELPHIA — This morning, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, with the support of the University of Pennsylvania Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, released a report on the state of primary medical care in Philadelphia, Staying Healthy: Access to Primary Care in Philadelphia. This report found that while the total number of primary care providers in the city continues to rise, some neighborhoods–the Northeast and Southwest Philadelphia–have a significantly lower supply of primary care providers than other parts of the city.


In a city with more than 30 hospitals and five medical schools, it might seem that proximity to basic health care would not be a problem.

But the new report finds that parts of the Northeast and Southwest are officially “primary care shortage areas,” with one provider for every 3,500 people, far below the citywide average of one per 1,200 people.

By Pat Loeb


Currently, there is a six-month wait for a doctor’s appointment, said Joan Bland, the clinic’s director and a nurse. For a walk-in, there is at least a half-hour wait to see a health-care provider, she said. The clinic is adding patient exam rooms in the basement, and has hired more nurse-practitioners to help with the patient load.

The clinic is in an area rich with diversity. There are 12 interpreters on staff for patients who speak Chinese, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and Urdu, among other languages. Six staff members, who all speak at least two languages, help patients set up insurance, Bland said.

By Mari Schaefer


If the place had the feeling of bursting at the seams, it’s because it is – Health Center 10 is by far the busiest of the eight primary care health centers run by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. It sees 67,000 patient visits a year, and new patients add their names to a long waiting list for appointments. City clinics treat patients regardless of insurance status — making them the only option for many families. On Tuesday, the sound of a construction crew hammering away in the basement reverberated through the building – an effort to expand the number of exam rooms spaces.

By Nina Feldman

Philly Tribune

The study released on Tuesday by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health indicates that while the total number of primary care providers in the city continues to rise, some neighborhoods — the Northeast and Southwest Philadelphia — have a significantly lower supply of primary care providers than other parts of the city.

This shortage means that these areas, commonly low-income and with high proportions of racial and ethnic minorities, are forced to wait longer to see their primary care providers for routine appointments. For residents who utilize Medicaid as their health insurance, this report finds that many providers who accept Medicaid as insurance nonetheless do not make appointments available for Medicaid patients.

By staff

Using Narcan Can Save Lives, But it’s Not Always Easy

“It’s not easy,” said Allison Herens, harm reduction coordinator at Philadelphia’s Public Health Department. She conducts regular trainings about naloxone and how to administer it, and recently led one for about two-dozen people at the South Philadelphia Library on Broad Street.

“There are lots of different kinds of emergencies that happen on the street in any moment and it can be hard to discern if it’s actually an emergency or not,” she told the group.

By Nina Feldman