COPE-REMS Provides Comprehensive Training on Safe Opioid Prescribing

Mark D. Sullivan, MD, PhDMark D. Sullivan, MD, PhD, is Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, and Adjunct Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington School of Medicine. He provides psychiatric consultation services in the UW Medicine Center for Pain Relief, with a focus on diagnosing and treating depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders in patients with chronic pain.

Dr. Sullivan will be a faculty participant at PAINWeek 2014, lecturing on opioid discontinuation and on making medications work for depression. Additionally, he is Executive Director of the COPE-REMS Training Program, a CME program promoting safe opioid prescribing that he describes here for PAINWeek Key Topics.

QuestionWhat is COPE-REMS?

AnswerThe COPE-REMS Training Program is a multipartner, multistate program aimed at providing quality, evidence-based training on safe opioid prescribing to healthcare providers. COPE-REMS stands for Collaborative Opioid Prescribing Education (COPE) for REMS, a comprehensive series combining live and virtual medical education training for healthcare providers. Our course aims to improve knowledge and competence at managing chronic pain so that interaction between prescribers and patients can be done collaboratively. The program is focused on reaching providers in the western states of the US and the Pacific Islands but the training is available nationwide.

QuestionWhy COPE-REMS?

AnswerPrescription drug abuse has been on the rise in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, and Idaho, with western states now showing among the highest rates of painkiller abuse, according to data released recently by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA).

The COPE-REMS Training Program offers comprehensive education for providers who seek practical guidance, video vignettes that can help them model provider-patient interactions, and a wealth of resources to help them address patients with chronic noncancer pain.

QuestionHow does the COPE-REMS program work?

AnswerCOPE-REMS is an interactive, multimedia training experience. The online course is a self-paced tutorial aimed at opioid prescribing providers—including physicians, registered nurses, ARNPs, physician assistants, psychologists—and other care managers who are involved in treating patients with chronic noncancer pain. COPE-REMS offers practical tips and solutions to providers, as well as communication training to boost the confidence of providers treating chronic pain patients.

The COPE-REMS course

  • Meets and exceeds REMS requirements as described by the FDA, and is rich with guidance about when it is appropriate to prescribe, change a dose level, or discontinue opioid prescribing
  • Emphasizes safe opioid prescribing and offers resources for providers and patients alike
  • Offers videos of case-based scenarios to help providers model ways to communicate better and handle difficult situations

The course includes a pretest, 6 chapters of audiovisual content, a post-test for those desiring CME credit, and a comprehensive resources section.

For completers of the COPE-REMS course, we provide facilitated access to UW TelePain Program consultation. The University of Washington’s Division of Pain Medicine offers weekly TelePain services, an audio and videoconference-based consultative knowledge network of interprofessional specialists with expertise in the management of challenging chronic pain problems. The goal is to increase the knowledge and skills of community practice providers who treat patients with chronic pain by offering case-based consultations with pain experts.

QuestionWhat pain medicines are included in the FDA REMS?

AnswerThe branded and generic drug products subject to the FDA REMS include—extended-release, oral-dosage forms containing hydromorphone, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, or tapentadol; fentanyl and buprenorphine-containing transdermal delivery systems; and methadone tablets or liquid that are indicated for use as pain medicines.

QuestionHow can interested prescribers get started with COPE-REMS?

AnswerThey can go to the course itself, accessible via our website,, and register free of charge. In addition, the COPE-REMS Training Program offers a virtual symposium series as a complement to the online COPE-REMS CME course. We invite you to join us on May 1, 2014, at 11:00 AM (PT) for the second in a 3-part complimentary, virtual CME series aimed at preventing opioid misuse, abuse and overdose. Melissa B. Weimer, DO; Assistant Professor of Medicine from Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) will present live and online, Practical Strategies for Safe Opioid Prescribing.

This interactive video presentation series provides clinicians with the necessary tools to communicate with their patients about their chronic pain and treatment. The online presentation is provided as a complement to the COPE-REMS program and is available at The first session, Safe Opioid Prescribing: It Starts with Effective Communication aired on March 4 and is now streaming online.


The University of Washington School of Medicine is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The University of Washington School of Medicine designates this enduring material for a maximum of 4.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

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