Viewpoint: Privacy laws hurt patients with opioid use disorder

"Privacy must be considered in any meaningful discussion about sharing medical records," however, "prejudice against people with opioid and other substance use disorders can lead to job loss and rupture of important relationships," writes Melissa Stein, MD, medical director of Bronx, N.Y.-based Montefiore Health System's Division of Substance Abuse, in an opinion piece for STAT.

Here are five highlights from the piece:

1. "Prejudice can extend into the medical community, leading to sub-par treatment," Dr. Stein writes. She addressed the stigma that comes with hiding opioid addiction, which can lead to patients fearing judgement and in turn receiving poor care.

2. "The extreme sensitivity of health information related to addiction treatment led to the 1972 passage of a federal regulation, 42 CFR Part 2. It was designed to protect patients by separating records related to addiction treatment from the rest of the medical record," Dr. Stein writes.

3. "Patients with an opioid use disorder treated with a medication such as methadone could experience potentially harmful drug interactions if given certain cardiac or anti-epileptic drugs," Dr. Stein writes. She addressed how physicians treating pained patient with addiction history can put patients at risk for receiving opioids due to inappropriate counseling.

4. "Hiding addiction disorders like this sends the message that they are somehow different from other brain diseases and inadvertently supports the stigma that surrounds them," according to Dr. Stein.She said keeping addiction hidden from medical staff prevents addicted patients from coming through physician's doors.

5. Dr. Stein argues 42 CFR Part 2 should be dissolved so all patients have access to a "team to provide excellent care. For people with chronic diseases, that team — and good communication between team members — is even more essential."

More articles on opioids: 

New York allows medical marijuana as opioid alternative for pain management
Chicago licenses 1,500 pharma reps to help fight opioid epidemic
27K deaths attributed to fentanyl and new synthetic opioids in 2017

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