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Multiple Fronts on the Opioid Crisis

Fraser Cobbe

Orange County Medical Society

Seminole County Medical Society

There is no denying that the battle to address the opioid crisis is going to take a significant amount of time and resources and will require contributions from every corner of our Society. The toll the crisis is taking on families and communities across the nation is heartbreaking and demands a comprehensive response. There is plenty of evidence that illustrates that society at large is waking up to the task at hand.

In the medical news clips this week there are multiple articles concerning the crisis. The New York Times is covering the issue of whether physicians are overprescribing opioids to women who have cesarean sections. Kaiser Health News is reporting concerns that projected Medicaid cuts being proposed in Washington may restrict access to treatment for drug addition. And The Boston Globe detailed the increased efforts of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to confront opioid addiction including assessing the efficacy of abuse-deterrent formulations for drugs and the removal of Endo Pharmaceuticals extended-release formulation of oxymorphone (Opana ER) from the market in light of findings that abusers were migrating toward an injection route.

Our organization is also increasing our efforts to address the crisis. This past week we hosted a webinar led by Dr. Kevin Sherin, Health Officer and Director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. Dr. Sherin delivered some good news that community wide efforts in Orange County are starting to have an impact. Yet as he showed the latest data on the human toll of this crisis in our community it is clear that much more needs to be done. (Click here to replay the webinar.

Last week the OCMS Board of Directors had the good fortune of welcoming Hector Vila, M.D. from the Florida Board of Medicine for a discussion on opioid prescribing and how the Board of Medicine can contribute to local efforts underway in this arena.

We are very pleased to be working with Mayor Jacobs and the Orange County Drug Free Office and Heroin Task Force on a formal educational program for physicians and other health care professionals that will take place in August. The agenda will cover all aspects of this crisis including; prevention, appropriate prescribing, law enforcement, and treatment options in the community.

I also had the opportunity to engage in a conversation with the Florida Insurance Consumer Advocate, Sha'ron James, on the role that insurance companies will need to play in addressing the crisis. Too often we see administrative policies and delays in authorization requests for definitive treatment that can lead to patients seeking pain relief while coverage decisions are made. The Workers Compensation arena has been battling this issue for several years. With evidence that even short term opioid use, less than 10 days, can greatly increase the likelihood of addition, it is paramount that excessive bureaucratic and administrative delays do not contribute to the growing crisis.

We are pleased to see such a comprehensive approach to address one of our greatest challenges. Orange County can be proud of the community response. Yet, it is clear we have a long way to go.

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