Physicians Task Force Announces Opioid Recommendations

2,500 Complete MMS CME on Opioids, Pain Management

The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, which includes the MMS, recently announced the first of several recommendations to reduce the public health crisis facing the country.

The nation’s largest physician organization said the coalition, comprised of 27 physician organizations including the AMA, American Osteopathic Association, 17 specialty and 7 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 is focused on several areas: prescription monitoring programs, physician education, reducing the stigma of substance use disorder, enhancing access to treatment, and expanding access to naloxone.

“This is a welcome development in the fight against opioid abuse,” said MMS President Dennis M. Dimitri, M.D. “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 MMS. Dr. Pieters is a radiation oncologist at UMass Memorial Health Care, board certified in hospice and palliative care, and a cancer pain specialist.

Dr. Dimitri said the Commonwealth has taken substantial strides in addressing the epidemic in the state. Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey have made the crisis a top priority and 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 those 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.

smartsafe The MMS has been reaching out to both prescribers and patients to educate them about safe prescribing and proper storage and disposal of prescription medications with a comprehensive opioid education and addiction prevention program called Smart and Safe.

Since making all MMS 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.

Dr. Dimitri 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 new Massachusetts state budget includes $111 million for substance abuse services, and the Gov. Baker has requested another $27.8 million in supplemental spending for treatment and prevention. U.S. Health and Human Services has also announced a $100 million effort for medication-assisted treatment, and Massachusetts will share in that program.

Creative new approaches have come from law enforcement as well. Gloucester’s Angels Program has enrolled nearly five dozen people into treatment since it began June 1, and the program has led to similar efforts in other communities.

Read more news and updates at www.massmed.org/opioids.

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