Provider Efforts Addressing Opioid Epidemic Must Be Met With Policies Promoting Evidence-Based Treatment

June 20, 2019

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.

For oncology-focused resources on prescription opioids, read ASCO’s policy issue brief. For the latest cancer policy news, visit ASCO in Action.