The nation’s focus is understandably set on the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, yet nearly 72,000 Americans died from an unintentional drug overdose last year. A new report from the AMA Opioid Task Force details actions physicians have taken, recognizes the evolving nature of the overdose epidemic, and identifies barriers that continue to stymie progress.
“Health insurance companies continue to delay and deny access to non-opioid pain care and evidence-based treatment for opioid-use disorder (OUD), while pharmacy chains, pharmacy benefit managers and state laws continue to inappropriately use arbitrary guidelines to restrict access to legitimate medication that some patients need to help manage their pain,” the report states.
The AMA Opioid Task Force 2020 report highlights how, even as physicians write fewer prescriptions for opioid analgesics, the nation still faces an overdose epidemic that is increasingly fueled by illicitly manufactured fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, psychostimulants such as methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and drug combinations.
“The nation needs to confront the fact that the nation’s drug overdose epidemic is now being driven predominantly by highly potent illicit fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine, although mortality involving prescription opioids remains a top concern,” said AMA Opioid Task Force Chair Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, who also is the AMA’s immediate past president.
“It is so important that we continue to work together to increase access to treatment for opioid-use disorder, that we increase access to naloxone and also harm-reduction programs such as syringe-exchange programs,” she said, adding that AMA advocacy with the federal government has achieved results.
“The key issue here is eliminating treatment barriers, and one thing that has been allowed is the increase of take-home medicine of methadone,” Dr. Harris said.
Source: American Medical Association