CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA), the premier national physician organization in the country, gathered physician and medical student leaders representing all aspects of medicine during its Annual Meeting and today voted to adopt new policies on emerging health care topics.

The AMA's House of Delegates is the policy-making body at the center of American medicine, bringing together an inclusive group of physicians, medical students and residents representing every state and medical field. Delegates work in a democratic process to create a national physician consensus on emerging issues in public health, science, ethics, business and government to continually provide safer, higher quality and more efficient care for patients and communities.

The policies adopted by the House of Delegates today include:

No medical rationale for military to exclude transgender individuals

There is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service in the military of the United States, according to new policy adopted by the nation's physicians at the American Medical Association's Annual Meeting. The new AMA policy also affirms that transgender service members should receive care according to the same medical standards that apply to all other military personnel.

The new policy is intended to help modify the military regulations that bar transgender individuals from the military and prohibit providing medical necessary care as determined by a doctor. An estimated 15,500 transgender individuals serving in currently in the U.S. military face being discharged if discovered during military service.

"The new AMA policy adds to a growing public consensus, including former public health and military officers, which questions the military's policies toward transgender individuals, and the negative impact these policies have on the health of transgender service members," said AMA President Robert M. Wah, M.D.

New AMA policy aims to help human trafficking victims

A staggering 12.3 million adults and children are enslaved in human trafficking around the world at any given time according to the United Nations' International Labor Organization. To help address this growing epidemic, the AMA today adopted policy to ensure that physicians are trained to report suspected cases of human trafficking to the appropriate authorities while ensuring victims have the medical, legal and social resources they need.

"We must do everything we can to help get victims of human trafficking to safety," said AMA Board Member William E. Kobler, M.D. "Since we know that victims of human trafficking rarely seek help out of fear of their captors or law enforcement, we believe that the health care setting is an ideal way to engage with suspected victims and get them the help and resources they so desperately need."

Strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs

In the midst of a national opioid misuse epidemic, the AMA today bolstered its support for Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). According to 2013 data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from prescription overdoses exceeded those from gunshot wounds and motor vehicle accidents.

"Interoperable PDMPs are important tools that can help physicians weigh the risks and benefits of prescribing opioids to a patient experiencing pain and are a key part of preventing misuse and diversion," said AMA Board Secretary Patrice A. Harris, MD. "The AMA is committed to ensuring appropriate prescribing practices and educating physicians and patients about the risks and benefits of opioids. We believe that increasing access to multidisciplinary pain therapies and increasing screening for and access to treatment programs for substance use disorders must be part of a comprehensive public health approach to reducing prescription drug misuse."

AMA's new policy encourages the use of PDMPs that protect patient privacy, contain relevant and reliable clinical data, are seamlessly integrated into a care team's workflow and provide actionable information. It also calls on state governments to modernize and fully fund PDMPs — ensuring they are capable of sharing data across state lines, within the safeguards applicable to protected health information. Additionally, the new policy supports the ability of physicians to designate a member of their care teams to check their PDMPs where allowed by state law to reduce burdens that may hinder usage of PDMPs in emergency departments, hospitals and physician offices.

"We must also continue efforts to increase access to the life-saving medicine naloxone, ensure that patients in pain and patients with substance use disorders receive the coordinated care they need for as long as they need it and to reduce the stigma associated with being treated for pain or having a substance use disorder," said Dr. Harris.

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.