CHICAGO — The American Medical Association (AMA) called on policymakers today to support proven approaches to treat opioid use disorder in light of new statistics showing a 10 percent increase in opioid fatalities last year.

“We know what works,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force. “We can point to states where making access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) has been a priority, and the mortality rates are doing down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provisional numbers yet again underscore that this epidemic will not be reversed until we deal with access issues and stigma associated with opioid misuse.”

The AMA has urged all health insurance companies and other payers to remove administrative and other barriers to high-quality, evidence-based treatment for patients with pain and those with opioid use disorder. In the past year, nearly 15,000 physicians have become certified to provide medication assisted treatment to patients with an opioid use disorder—a 42 percent increase. Physicians are heeding the AMA’s call to become better educated on this issue and to use state-based Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs).

The CDC figures show that while the national mortality rate likely increased 10 percent last year, the results are not uniformly bleak. In some states, the picture has improved, thanks to aggressive public health campaigns. Mortality declines were reported in Massachusetts, Utah, and New Mexico—all three state medical societies are members of AMA Opioid Task Force. In Massachusetts, the state medical society adopted a policy advocating that inmates at the county, state and federal levels have access to the full spectrum of evidence-based recovery support services, including all medication assisted treatments, including post-release care. Physicians and other health care professionals in New Mexico increased use of the state PDMPs by 39 percent in 2017. The Utah Medical Association released clinical guidelines on prescribing opioids for treatment of pain, recommending co-prescribing naloxone for patients at risk of overdose.

“We need to act with resolve as we have with other public health epidemics. By putting resources into treatment, we have responded effectively to other crises. Our patients diagnosed with substance use disorders deserve no less,” Harris said.

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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.