AMA President Calls on Physicians to Stop Opioid Epidemic

Problem often begins from a prescription pad, expert says

The medical profession must play a lead role in reversing the opioid epidemic that, far too often, has started from a prescription pad, according to Steven J. Stack, MD, president of the American Medical Association. Stack made his comments in a blog posted on the Huffington Post website.

“As a profession that places patient well-being as our highest priority, we must accept responsibility to re-examine prescribing practices,” Stack wrote. “We must begin by preventing our patients from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place. We must work with federal and private health insurers to enable access to multidisciplinary treatment programs for patients with pain and expand access for medication-assisted treatment for those with opioid use disorders.”

Stack called on all physicians to take the following steps to reverse the nation’s opioid overdose and death epidemic:

  • Avoid initiating opioids for new patients with chronic noncancer pain unless the expected benefits are anticipated to outweigh the risks. Nonpharmacological therapy and nonopioid pharmacological therapy are preferred.
  • Limit the amount of opioids prescribed for postoperative care and acutely injured patients. Physicians should prescribe the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible duration for pain that is severe enough to require opioids.
  • Register for and use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to assist in the care of patients when considering the use of any controlled substances.
  • Reduce stigma to enable effective and compassionate care.
  • Work compassionately to reduce opioid exposure in patients who are already on chronic opioid therapy when risks exceed benefits.
  • Identify and assist patients with opioid use disorder in obtaining evidence-based treatment.
  • Co-prescribe naloxone to patients who are at risk for overdose.

“As physicians, we are on the front lines of an opioid epidemic that is crippling communities across the country,” Stack wrote. “We must accept and embrace our professional responsibility to treat our patients’ pain without worsening the current crisis. These are actions we must take as physicians individually and collectively to do our part to end this epidemic.”

Source: Huffington Post; May 11, 2016.