The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) recently signed onto a letter from the American Medical Association, National Safety Council, and HARM Reduction Coalition, urging the National Governors Association (NGA) and its member governors to increase the focus on overdose prevention and treatment.
“On behalf of the nation’s physicians and medical students, leading safety advocates, community leaders, and health care professionals who work every day to promote the health and dignity of individuals and communities impacted by drug use, we write to urge your strong support for turning the nation’s discussion about prescription drug abuse and diversion into one that places increased emphasis on overdose prevention and treatment,” said the organizations in the letter.
To this effort, the organizations recommended three key policies, including:
- Enhancing access and utilization of naloxone in every state
- Providing Good Samaritan protections for those who help victims of overdose
- Increasing access to medication assisted treatment services as well as non-opioid based treatments
“Collectively, these three areas can be the cornerstone of an effective demand-side strategy to reduce opioid-related abuse, misuse, overdose, and death,” said the organizations in the letter. “States have shown that they can restrict prescription opioids, but the unintended effects of those policies without comparable attention to addiction treatment access have helped lead to the increase in heroin use. No one wants that trend to continue, but without effective demand-side measures, it will.”
The letter also acknowledged that physicians and other prescribers must carefully examine prescribing practices, and more effective and widespread use of clinically appropriate screening tools can help identify patients at risk for abuse.
Pennsylvania is a step ahead in these efforts. In November 2014, a new state law took effect that expands access to naloxone and provides Good Samaritan protections to people seeking aid for someone experiencing a drug overdose.
Two years ago, PAMED started its “Pills for Ills, Not Thrills” campaign with the goal of raising awareness of prescription drug abuse and reducing its incidence in Pennsylvania. Since then, we have been at the forefront of many initiatives aimed at achieving this goal, including supporting the above-mentioned bill as it made its way through the legislative process to become law. PAMED has also:
- Advocated for a statewide prescription drug database. Then-Gov. Tom Corbett signed a law that will create such a database on Oct. 27, 2014. The database is expected to be operational in June 2015.
- Supported drug drop-off programs
- Made voluntary opioid prescribing guidelines for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain available in conjunction with the state and developed guidelines for the treatment of pain in the emergency department in conjunction with the Pennsylvania College of Emergency Physicians
- Developed a six-part CME webinar series for physicians and other licensed prescribers on the use of long-acting and extended-release opioids
- Created a booklet to help physicians identify pill-seeking doctor shoppers
- Developed an opioid prescription checklist to help health care providers discuss pain management with their patients
Learn more and stay up to date on our efforts at www.pamedsoc.org/opioids.