New AMA policies take aim at opioid epidemic

New policies established at the 2016 American Medical Association Annual Meeting are set to expand the role of physicians in reversing the opioid epidemic by reducing opioid medication misuse, overdoses and death.

The new policy measures include enhancing the role of prescription drug monitoring, improving access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone, changing the way patient pain reporting impacts satisfaction metrics and establishing addiction medicine as a physician subspecialty.

Not every state allows physicians to access their own prescription records, so the AMA will institute promotional efforts backing state-run electronic prescription drug monitoring programs. The organization will also study pathways that may permit physicians to report patient misuse of their prescriptions.

As the prevalence of the life-saving opioid overdose antidote naloxone continues to grow, the AMA will make additional efforts to bolster drug availability. AMA delegates have agreed to collaborate with pharmacists to support legislative and regulatory efforts to improve access to the drug as well as support efforts to make the drug available to law enforcement agencies. Physicians will also support the co-prescription of naloxone with opioid medications, encourage payers to include the antidote on their preferred drug lists, support liability protections for physicians and support naloxone educational efforts.

At the annual meeting, the AMA also agreed to support access to non-opioid treatments for pain and advocate for the extraction of pain management components from patient satisfaction surveys as these surveys impact physician payment and can complicate efforts to minimize opioid prescription.

AMA delegates also chose to back the American Board of Preventive Medicine's establishment of addiction medicine as a subspecialty for physicians and to further encourage the organization to expedite the offering of certification exams.

"We applaud the American Board of Preventive Medicine for making addiction medicine a new subspecialty," said Patrice A. Harris, MD, AMA board member. "We believe that having more physicians specifically trained to treat addiction will help improve access to care and help combat the nation's opioid epidemic."

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