February 23, 2016
2 min read

AMA: Physicians must run toward emergency of opioid epidemic

You've successfully added to your alerts. You will receive an email when new content is published.

Click Here to Manage Email Alerts

We were unable to process your request. Please try again later. If you continue to have this issue please contact customerservice@slackinc.com.

The AMA has released findings from a national physician survey that show support for policies and recommendations regarding the opioid epidemic in the United States, according to a press release.

Steven J. Stack, MD, AMA president, discussed the survey in a viewpoint published on the AMA's website following the release.

"One of the great hallmarks of our profession is to run toward an emergency, to stand with our patients in the midst of their most pressing needs and to show the nation a clear path forward," he wrote. "One way that our profession has done that for the opioid epidemic so far has been to convene a task force with more than 20 state and specialty medical associations, the American Osteopathic Association and the American Dental Association to identify best practices and implement them across the country."

Commissioned by the AMA and the AMA Task Force to Reduce Prescription Opioid Abuse, the survey was conducted by TNS Global Research in November. The sample included 2,130 physicians who work at least 20 hours each week, have a license to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances and prescribe opioids at least weekly.

The survey identified five key findings:

  • 87% of physicians responded that prescription drug monitoring programs are valuable in helping them understand a patient's prescription history;
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs would be more effective if they included features such as real-time data usage and electronic health record integration;
  • Physicians want more opioid-related continuing medical education — 68% have taken safe prescribing CME and 55% have taken opioid alternative pain management CME, but 25% of physicians reported that the opioid CME they needed was not available;
  • More than 80% of physicians agreed that patients who are at risk of an overdose should have access to nalaxone by a standing order or agreement with a pharmacist;
  • Physicians said that barriers include a lack of insurance coverage, difficulties finding specialists for referral and pressure for high patient satisfaction scores.

The AMA has taken several steps that support some of the survey's findings. According to the AMA, several organizations currently offer waiver-qualifying medication-assisted treatment training for physicians and the task force included increasing access to the education in its key recommendations. Additionally, the AMA pointed to its support of 20 state laws aimed at increasing access to naloxone as wells its model legislation that includes support for standing orders.

“The next step to help increase access to naloxone is for physicians to co-prescribe this life-saving medication to patients at risk for overdose,” Stack said in the release. “Just as we would co-prescribe an epi-pen to a person at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction, we should co-prescribe naloxone to a patient at risk for overdose.”

Stack stated that the survey was "an important window into physicians' perceptions." In order to combat the epidemic, he said, physicians must lead the charge.

"Our nation’s opioid epidemic won’t end unless we become leaders by supporting the necessary policies and making the necessary practice changes," Stack said in his viewpoint. "I urge you to join me in taking these steps today. Now is the time to act — this is our moment to turn the tide." by Chelsea Frajerman Pardes