CHICAGO — The American Medical Association today released the findings of a national physician survey that shows strong support for key policies and recommendations to end the nation’s opioid epidemic, including ways to improve prescription drug monitoring programs, enhancing physician education as well as removing barriers to care. Released by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse, the survey shows that 87 percent of physicians agree that prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) help physicians become more informed about a patient’s prescription history. The survey also found that to further enhance this as a resource, physicians said PDMPs need improvement to integrate with electronic health records, provide real-time data and other key features that would make them even more useful.

In light of the findings, AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, issued a “call to action” to the nation’s physicians and physicians-in-training this week, highlighting five important recommendations when prescribing opioids and encouraging physicians to increase their efforts in the fight against opioid misuse.

“If a physician is considering prescribing an opioid — whether for acute or chronic pain — we strongly encourage physicians to ensure that they are current in their knowledge and training as to when an opioid is appropriate — and when it is not,” said Dr. Stack. “This new survey helps underscore that medical societies must be leaders in providing the best resources possible to our colleagues in every state and for every specialty, both for appropriate opioid prescribing and in urging physicians to register for and use PDMPs.”

The AMA survey also found that a majority of respondents have taken continuing medical education (CME) on safe opioid prescribing (68 percent) and pain management with opioid alternatives (55 percent). Moreover, the survey found that physicians seek more practice-specific and specialty-specific education. Specifically, the survey found that 1 in 4 physicians said that CME on these issues either was not readily available for their specialty or did not directly address their practice needs.

The national survey also addressed overdose prevention and treatment of substance use disorders. Only 15 percent of the surveyed physicians had taken education on medication-assisted treatment (MAT). The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse has made increasing access to MAT a key recommendation and several medical organizations offer waiver-qualifying MAT training to help physicians recognize patients with substance use disorder and become certified to increase access to treatment.

In addition, the survey found strong support for increasing access to naloxone. More than 80 percent of physicians said that naloxone should be available to a patient via a standing order or collaborative practice agreement with a pharmacist. The AMA has model legislation that includes support for standing orders, and the AMA also has supported more than 20 state laws that increase access to naloxone in the community. Additionally, it is essential that the pharmaceutical companies and health plans ensure ready, reliable, and affordable access to this life-saving medication.

“The next step to help increase access to naloxone is for physicians to co-prescribe this life-saving medication to patients at risk of overdose,” said Dr. Stack. “Just as we would co-prescribe an epi-pen to a person at risk for a life-threatening allergic reaction, we should co-prescribe naloxone to a patient at risk for overdose.”

“This survey provides an important window into physicians’ perceptions about caring for patients with pain and those with substance use disorders,” said Dr. Stack. “This survey confirms that physicians support many of the key policies being considered to end this crisis. The AMA and the nation’s physicians are committed to partnering with others to implement proven solutions.”

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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.

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