©2019 Agencia


Switching Off Painkiller Addiction

Painkiller addiction is an epidemic that requires decisive action. North Lincolnshire County Council recognised this and asked Agencia to help.

Increase in painkiller addiction in the UK over the last 10 years

The UK’s current world ranking for painkiller addiction

The Challenge

The North Lincolnshire Substance Misuse Team started looking into some of the local statistics and some alarming results surfaced. With over 160,000 total prescriptions, including patients spending over £400 per month on painkillers and a worrying average cost of £9.63 per patient (almost treble the national average), Agencia were appointed to deliver the following:

  • Develop a support system for patients.
  • Reduce the amount of prescriptions and save GPs time.
  • Tackle the costs associated to the NHS.
  • Generate awareness about the silent rise of the UK’s painkiller epidemic

The Action

Agencia designed ‘Rewire’ as a pilot service to help combat the ongoing epidemic of painkiller addiction. The idea was to understand the problem and find evidence-based solutions to transform the issues both at home and globally.

  • Data Analysis
    By closely collating and analysing GP prescribing data, Agencia were able to detect repeat addictions. A huge 27% of patients cancelled or changed their subscription after being notified, whilst 67% were invited to a review meeting.The majority of the review meeting patients responded well to brief, structured advice about painkillers. However, there were still a significant amount of patients who required specialist support for their addiction.
  • Psychosocial Support
    Agencia trained staff and families about painkiller addiction, to help them better understand it, so that they could help patients overcome their challenges. Additionally, an online support system was introduced as a solution of creating a solid support network.
  • Pharmacological Support
    Taking the necessary precautions, and if required, alternate pain management was provided to patients, alongside opiate substitution therapy. By providing alternative solutions, Agencia aimed to reduce, if not stop, repeat prescriptions altogether.

The Results

Rewire has proved highly successful in reducing painkiller misuse by patients, changing lives and reducing costs for NHS services.

  • Prescribing costs down 27%; saving the NHS £8,700 annually
  • GPs are now prescribing fewer painkillers
  • The close work with patients has helped identify other health issues
  • Reduced the total number of visits to hospitals
  • GPs review prescriptions more frequently

Best Presented Paper Award 2016

The project received recognition at a national level, winning the award for Best Presented Paper at the Royal College of General Practitioners Conference on Substance Misuse.

National Recognition

Agencia’s painkiller addiction service ‘Rewire’ was featured on the BBC 6 o’clock and 10 o’clock news.

Watch it here


Substance Misuse Team (North Lincolnshire Council)


April 2016 – Today


North Lincolnshire Council

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