America’s Opioid Crisis: Are you part of the solution?

OpioidsThe American Medical Association (AMA) Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse has recently announced the first in a series of national recommendations to address the growing epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States. The task force, which includes 27 physician organizations – the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many others in addition to the AMA – is urging physicians such as yourself to register for and use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). “We have joined together as part of this special Task Force because we collectively believe that it is our responsibility to work together to provide a clear road map that will help bring an end to this public health epidemic,” AMA Board Chair-Elect Patrice A. Harris said in a release.

PDMPs are screening tools that can help doctors determine when to and not prescribe opioid medications – also known as painkillers – and, in turn, save the lives of some of the 44 people who according to the CDC die every day from opioid overdoses – as well as save many more from the clutches of addiction. Fully funded PDMPs can provide important clinical information at the point of care and become a powerful instrument for doctors to establish whether a patient may misuse and abuse opioids, and also to enforce strategies such as referral for people who need additional care. “PDMPs vary greatly in efficacy and functionality from state to state,” Dr. Harris said. “Alone, they will not end this crisis, but they can provide helpful clinical information, and because they are available in nearly every state, PDMPs can be effective in turning the tide to end opioid abuse in the right direction.”

The task force encourages doctors to collaborate with their state medical society to make sure the local PDMP is well-funded, updated, and is able to allow you to:

·         Consult a patient’s prescription history in real time.

·         Track patient prescription history from other states.

·         Determine whether you may have to counsel and refer the patient for further treatment for persistent pain or substance abuse disorders.

·         Learn practices to better guide prescribing decisions.

·         Create alerts when a patient hits certain limits for prescriptions, dosage, or quantity.

·         Be prompted when co-prescribing naloxone is clinically indicated.

·         Assign a delegate in your practice to run reports.

·         Safeguard patient confidentiality.

Additionally, the effort will aim at improving doctors’ knowledge of safe, effective, and evidence-based prescribing, including a website containing crucial information on PDMPs and what they can do for medical practices, and a nationwide marketing, social, and communications campaign to increase physicians’ awareness on what you can do to fight the America’s opioid crisis and the prescribing alternatives you have at your disposal – alternatives that include electrotherapy devices for pain relief, for example the TENS 3000 unit. “America's patients who live with acute and chronic pain deserve compassionate, high-quality and personalized care and we will do everything we can to create a health care response that ensures they live longer, fuller and productive lives,” Dr. Harris concluded.