Reports from more than 20 states indicate that the nation's opioid epidemic may be getting worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new AMA Advocacy Resource Center issue brief.

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Despite new policies from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that provide increased flexibility for providing buprenorphine and methadone to patients with opioid use disorder, states must take action to implement those policies, including:

  • Governors must adopt the new SAMHSA and DEA rules and guidance in-full for the duration of the national emergency—this includes flexibility for evaluation and prescribing requirements (PDF) using telemedicine.
  • States must enact as part of their own Emergency Orders and other actions a complete removal of prior authorization, step therapy and other administrative barriers for medications used to treat opioid use disorder.
  • States must remove existing barriers for patients with pain to obtain necessary medications. This includes removing arbitrary dose, quantity and refill restrictions on controlled substances.
  • States must enact, implement and support harm reduction strategies, including removing barriers to sterile needle and syringe services programs.

Read the full range of AMA recommendations for states to help patients with opioid use disorder and pain as well as how to further harm reduction efforts.

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