Statement from Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force
"A 22-percent decrease in opioid prescriptions nationally between 2013 and 2017 reflects the fact that physicians and other health care professionals are increasingly judicious when prescribing opioids. It is notable that every state has experienced a decrease, but this is tempered by the fact that deaths related to heroin and illicit fentanyl are increasing at a staggering rate, and deaths related to prescription opioids also continue to rise. These statistics again prove that simply decreasing prescription opioid supplies will not end the epidemic. We need well-designed initiatives that bring together public and private insurers, policymakers, public health infrastructure, and communities with the shared goal to improve access and coverage for comprehensive pain management and treatment for substance use disorders.
"Additionally, it is a sign of progress that IQVIA reported an increase in new treatment starts for medication assisted treatment (MAT) for patients with opioid use disorder, nearly doubling from 44,000 in December 2015 to 82,000 in December 2017. This evidence-based treatment can slow and even stop this epidemic. Physicians and other stakeholders accept that bold action is needed. We go where the evidence leads us. We all must take care that policies and practices don't restrict access to one alternative for pain relief without increasing access to comprehensive, multidisciplinary pain care, including non-opioid-based options."
In 2015, the AMA launched a Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse and continues to work with state medical societies to address legislation and regulation ranging from developing effective prescription drug monitoring programs, continuing medical education, restrictions on treatment for opioid use disorder as well as enactment of naloxone access and Good Samaritan overdose protections.