Physician Groups Band Together to Address Opioid Crisis

Contact: Richard Gulla
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rgulla@mms.org

AMA Task Force underlines physician engagement to curb opioid abuse; Efforts will supplement actions by Massachusetts officials and physicians  

Waltham, Mass. -- July 31 -- Led by the American Medical Association (AMA), with participation from the Massachusetts Medical Society, the nation’s physicians have announced a collaborative effort to address the growing problem of opioid abuse.  

The nation’s largest physician organization said its AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, comprised of 27 physician organizations including the AMA, American Osteopathic Association, 17 specialty and seven state medical societies, and the American Dental Association,  has been formed to identify and implement the best practices to engage physicians in curbing opioid abuse.

The Task Force this week announced the first of several recommendations to reduce the public health crisis facing the country.

“This is a welcome development in the fight against opioid abuse,” said Dennis M. Dimitri, M.D., President of the Massachusetts Medical Society. “It will combine the strengths of the nation’s major medical organizations, bring greater and more constant attention to this public health crisis, and supplement specific approaches already underway by Massachusetts elected officials and physicians.” 

AMA Board Chair-Elect Patrice A. Harris, M.D. said the AMA Task Force is “committed to working long-term on a multi-pronged, comprehensive public health approach to end opioid abuse in America.”  The initial approach of the collaboration will focus on several areas: prescription monitoring programs, physician education on safe prescribing of opioids, assessment and treatment of pain, reducing the stigma of substance use disorder, enhancing access to treatment, and expanding access to the life-saving drug naloxone.     

“The efforts of the Task Force,” Dr. Dimitri said, “can only add strength to our efforts in the Commonwealth.” He said the AMA’s effort is benefiting from the expertise of its Massachusetts representative, Richard S. Pieters, M.D., immediate past president of the Massachusetts Medical Society. Dr. Pieters is a radiation oncologist at UMass Memorial Health Care, is board certified in hospice and palliative care, and a cancer pain specialist. 

In a commentary on the Society’s website, Dr. Dimitri said that the Commonwealth has taken substantial strides in addressing the epidemic in the state. He noted that the Governor and Attorney General have made the crisis a top priority and that the Governor’s Opioid Working Group has issued an action plan with a number of recommendations that are in the process of being implemented. 

Dr. Dimitri said the Working Group’s recommendations – among them improving the prescription monitoring program, reducing stigma by reframing addiction as a medical disease, implementing treatment programs, and making naloxone more accessible –  have been supported by Massachusetts physicians for some time.  

For its part, Dr. Dimitri said the Massachusetts Medical Society has reached out to both prescribers and patients to educate them about safe prescribing and proper storage and disposal of prescription medications.   

Dr. Dimitri called particular attention to the Massachusetts Medical Society’s efforts in educating prescribers.  Since making all of the organization’s continuing medical education courses on opioids and pain management free to all prescribers in late May, nearly 2,500 health professionals have taken one or more courses in the first two months. To meet demand, the Society added nine courses on the topics since last year, when only 400 completed such courses in a comparable period.     

He also cited improvements, now in progress, to the state’s prescription monitoring program that will make it easier for physicians to use. One key change: reducing the time for pharmacy reporting of opioid prescriptions from two weeks to 24 hours, an action that should reduce “doctor shopping” by patients.  


The Massachusetts Medical Society, with more than 25,000 physicians and student members, is dedicated to educating and advocating for the patients and physicians of Massachusetts. The Society, under the auspices of NEJM Group, publishes the New England Journal of Medicine, a leading global medical journal and web site, and Journal Watch alerts and newsletters covering 13 specialties. The Society is also a leader in continuing medical education providing accredited and certified activities across the globe for physicians and other health care professionals.  Founded in 1781, MMS is the oldest continuously operating medical society in the country. For more information please visit www.massmed.org, www.nejm.org, or www.jwatch.org.  

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