A remarkable development in the effort to solve the country’s prescription drug abuse crisis was evident last week at a national summit of governmental and public health leaders held in Atlanta. Federal officials, state attorneys general and the AMA all agreed on a needed change in focus to treatment and prevention.

The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit, which concluded Thursday, brought together hundreds of thought leaders and advocates from across the country, including executives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

“This summit marked a turning point for the national perspective of the prescription drug abuse epidemic,” AMA Board of Trustees Member Patrice A. Harris, MD, said. Dr. Harris was part of a panel that looked at improving communications between physicians and pharmacists to ensure patients get the care and treatment they need.

Dr. Harris discussed the AMA’s strong support for an evidence-based, public health approach to addressing the crisis, including efforts to enhance education and increase access to treatment for substance abuse and addiction.

“The focus now has shifted from law-enforcement strategies to addressing the heart of the issue: prevention and treatment to keep people safe and healthy,” Dr. Harris said.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, one of the keynote speakers, noted that success in combating prescription drug abuse and diversion was attainable, but the key now would be scaling up efforts and turning attention to a more holistic approach that would include a “cultural shift.”

“Components of a robust public health response to prevent prescription overdose [are] real-time data, prevention and clinical care,” Dr. Frieden said in a recap tweet from the CDC.

Efforts to combat the crisis continue across the country. In early April, Wisconsin adopted a series of laws supported by the Wisconsin Medical Society that encompass a range of approaches, from placing overdose reversal drugs in the hands of trained first responders to creating safe community disposal opportunities and treatment programs for people in high-need areas.

Robust campaigns to promote prevention of prescription drug abuse also are being led by several state medical associations, including campaigns of the Medical Association of Georgia and the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Just a few weeks ago a coalition of stakeholders that includes the AMA submitted policy recommendations to members of Congress during a special roundtable discussion in the nation’s capital. The Stop Overdose Stat Act of 2013 also recently was introduced to Congress. The legislation supports community-based efforts to prevent drug overdose. 

Visit the AMA’s Web page on combating prescription drug abuse and diversion to learn about the AMA’s work with state medical associations, federal agencies and lawmakers to stop prescription drug abuse and preserve access to treatment for the patients who need it.

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