Provider Efforts Addressing Opioid Epidemic Must Be Met With Policies Promoting Evidence-Based Treatment
A recent American Medical Association (AMA) report on opioids highlights how provider mandates—on training, prior authorizations—have not had a significant impact on curtailing the opioid epidemic. According to the Opioid Task Force 2019 Progress Report, prescription opioid-related mortality may be leveling off, however deaths from heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogs are at an all-time high. Instead, the report calls on policymakers to address the opioid epidemic with policies to promote evidence-based treatment.
The report notes that healthcare professionals have been taking myriad steps to address the epidemic. Significant findings from the report include:
- Opioid prescriptions decreased 33% between 2013-2018, including a 12.4% decrease between 2017-2018
- Healthcare professionals used state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) more than 460 million times in 2018—an increase of 167 million from 2017, and 390 million more queries than in 2014
- Healthcare professionals completed relevant education courses, reviewed related education and training resources, and accessed other associated materials more than 700,000 times in 2018—an increase of 150,000 instances from 2017
- More than 66,000 physicians, and a growing number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, are certified to treat patients in-office with buprenorphine—an increase of more than 28,000 from 2016
- Nearly 600,000 naloxone prescriptions were dispensed in 2018—almost a threefold increase from the 136,000 dispensed in 2016
The AMA Opioid Task Force report underscores the immediate need to focus on removing barriers to evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction and makes key recommendations for policymakers, such as:
- Removing inappropriate barriers that delay or deny patients’ access to Food and Drug Administration-approved medications used for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) in opioid use disorder
- Supporting the assessment, referral, and treatment of co-occurring mental disorders
- Removing barriers to comprehensive, multimodal, multidisciplinary pain care and rehabilitation programs
- Supporting maternal and child health by increasing access to evidence-based treatment, preserving families, and ensuring that policies are non-punitive
- Supporting reforms in the civil and criminal justice system that help ensure access to high-quality, evidence-based care for opioid use disorder, including MAT
ASCO is a member of AMA’s Opioid Task Force and supports the findings and recommendations in the report.