Congress 'too scared to take on the AMA' in fighting opioid crisis, senator says

As legislators search for ways to curb the opioid crisis, advocates for further restricting the drugs claim the American Medical Association is lobbying against several CDC recommendations and that members of Congress are afraid to take on the lobby, The Daily Beast reports.

Five things to know:

1. A number of the CDC recommendations were included in the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act 2.0 bill, introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in February.

Mr. Portman's office confirmed that lobbyists from the AMA said they would not support provisions included in the CARA 2.0 bill  limiting opioid prescriptions to three-day supplies, or the requirement that physicians take education courses on drugs and addiction.

2. This opposition from the AMA has drawn heated criticism. In a meeting of advocates for curbing opioid abuse the week of May 20, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., discussed the lack of progress on certain proposals, saying some of his colleagues were "too scared to take on the AMA," according to The Daily Beast.

3. Gary Mendell, CEO of Shatterproof — a nonprofit aimed at eliminating the harmful effects of addiction on families — said congressional staff told him that "the AMA will resist anything that regulates healthcare" on several issues. The AMA also pushed against federal grant money requiring prescribers to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs before prescribing certain controlled substances and sharing that information with other states, Mr. Mendell said.

"The AMA doesn't dispute that doctors should check the Prescription Drug Monitor Program, but they resist a law that requires them to do that," Mr. Mendell said. "I'm not about regulating healthcare. I don't care if it's regulated or not. I just care that they are safely taken care of. If doctors were doing it on their own, then we wouldn't be having this conversation."

4. The CDC issued recommendations for opioid prescriptions in March 2016, including physicians giving the lowest possible and limiting the prescription to three days or less for acute pain. "More than seven days will rarely be needed," the CDC stated.

5. The AMA said the CDC issued only recommendations and that "efforts to codify a strict limit on prescribing opioids are inconsistent with both the language and spirit of the guidelines."

"A strict three-day limit ignores the admonition from the CDC guideline that 'Clinical decision-making should be based on a relationship between the clinician and patient, and an understanding of the patient's clinical situation, functioning, and life context,' misstates the actual recommendation of the CDC, and applies limits to clinical situations to which they were not intended to be applied," the AMA said in a statement obtained by The Daily Beast.

"Limits and one-size-fits-all approaches will not end this epidemic," the AMA statement continues. "The AMA has urged Congress, statehouses, and payers to cover evidence-based treatment that works. Most patients with opioid-use disorder have trouble accessing care as payers, and others put up obstacles."

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