AMA Details Vision for Ending Opioid Epidemic at National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit

Opioid and heroin abuse have skyrocketed in America prompting new guidelines and regulations from the CDC and FDA. The AMA weighed in on their vision for addressing the problem at a recent national conference.

Patrice Harris, MD, MA, chair-elect of the American Medical Association and the chair of its Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, laid out the AMA’s vision for ending the opioid epidemic on March 29.  

Speaking at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, Harris highlighted the leadership roles the AMA and individual physicians are playing – and must continue to play – to reduce the deaths from opioid overdose. And there are signs of progress from efforts by the Task Force, the AMA’s commitment to the Obama administration last October, and many medical society initiatives for demonstrable and measurable steps that physicians can take to reduce opioid misuse and diversion.

"The AMA's vision for ending this epidemic starts with a focus on what physicians can do in their practices and in their communities. We not only must take responsibility for ending this epidemic, we must take action to do so," Harris said. 

 As a result of these combined efforts, Harris said:

  • Physicians are participating in education targeted to their state and specialty on safe opioid prescribing;
  • Physicians are prescribing naloxone -- a drug that can prevent opioid overdose deaths – to at-risk patients;
  • Physicians are registering with and are using their state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs; and
  • Physicians are hearing the AMA messaging that calls on physicians to be part of the solution to this epidemic.

On behalf of the physician community, the AMA is measuring the steps physicians are taking to meet the commitments made to the administration. Harris pointed out that from 2014 to 2015, opioid prescriptions decreased 6.8 percent nationally, following a 2.9 percent decline the year before. 

Harris, a psychiatrist, talked about the need to avoid stigmatizing patients as well as other obstacles to effective treatment for patients with substance use disorders.

The AMA last year brought together 25 physician organizations, 17 specialty and seven state medical societies, as part of its task force on opioids. It is committed to identifying the best practices to combat this public health epidemic and to move swiftly to implement these practices across the country. AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, recently put out a call to action on this topic. The AMA is also working with the nation's governors to come up with effective policy to reduce opioid overdoses. 

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