CHICAGO — The American Medical Association has joined with organizations representing physicians, pharmacists, supply chains and other stakeholder groups to develop a consensus document highlighting the “red flag” warning signs of prescription drug abuse and diversion. By illuminating the challenges of prescribing and dispensing opioids, the groups aim to prevent the misuse and diversion of controlled substances while ensuring access to the medicines for patients with legitimate needs.

“Physicians, pharmacists and supply chain managers share a responsibility to reduce the abuse of medicines and the diversion of controlled substances that lead to accidental deaths,” said Speaker of the AMA’s House of Delegates Andrew W. Gurman, MD. “By educating everyone involved in prescribing and dispensing opioids about the signs that may indicate that diversion, misuse or abuse are occurring, we’re hoping to improve the health of the nation.”

The red flag warning signs for both physicians and pharmacists were placed into two categories – those factors more indicative of substance abuse or diversion, and other aberrant medication-related behaviors and factors potentially indicative of substance abuse or diversion.

The coalition of stakeholders that support the consensus document includes:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American Medical Association
  • American Osteopathic Association
  • American Pharmacists Association
  • American Society of Anesthesiologists
  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
  • Cardinal Health
  • CVS Health
  • Healthcare Distribution Management Association
  • National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores
  • National Community Pharmacists Association
  • Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
  • Purdue Pharma L.P.
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreen Co.

This collaboration is just one part of the AMA’s efforts to curb prescription drug abuse, misuse, overdose and death. We are engaged in advocacy efforts with state and federal policymakers supporting a public health approach to address the problem. That approach includes increased access to treatment and prevention programs and lifesaving overdose prevention medications like naloxone, enhanced education for physicians and patients and modernized and fully funded prescription drug monitoring programs. 

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