Addressing the Opioid Epidemic Without Limiting Appropriate Cancer Care

February 22, 2018

ASCO submitted comments to the Senate Finance Committee on addressing the opioid epidemic in the United States. ASCO is concerned about the epidemic and its devastating impact on too many Americans and wants to ensure that any efforts to address the epidemic do not inadvertently limit access to appropriate medical therapy for patients with cancer.

In the comment letter, ASCO President Bruce E. Johnson, MD, FASCO, responds to committee-posed questions on changes to Medicare and Medicaid that could minimize the risk of substance abuse, while promoting efficient access to appropriate prescriptions. ASCO expressed support for a proposal from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to exempt patients with cancer from the new drug management program for at-risk beneficiaries. The Society’s comments also address how to best identify and educate providers with high opioid prescribing patterns, as well as how to increase accessibility and coordinate prescribing initiatives—such as Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs).

“ASCO is a strong supporter of the policies within the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) intended to address the opioid addiction epidemic,” said Dr. Johnson. “As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continues implementing CARA’s directives, ASCO has encouraged the agency to consider the unique needs of specific populations to prevent any unintended gaps in patient access to medically necessary pain medication, including the cancer patient population.”

ASCO has a policy statement on opioid therapy, offers educational resources on pain control and opioid prescribing, and participates in the American Medical Association’s Opioid Task Force, which is working to provide healthcare professionals with education and resources to assist in appropriate prescribing and raising awareness of the critical role that such professionals play in stemming this crisis.

Read the full comments and stay tuned to ASCO in Action for the latest news and updates on opioid policies.