Physicians Weigh in on Key Policies to Prevent Opioid Misuse

A national survey of physicians found strong support for key policies that could help prevent opioid misuse, but report encountering barriers.

A national survey of physicians found strong support for improving prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) as one way to help prevent opioid misuse.

Having lost 30,000 lives due to abuse of prescription opioids and heroin, the American Medical Association (AMA) surveyed physicians nationwide for their opinion on the opioid epidemic and how the issue can be resolved.

Other policies to end the epidemic that had strong support from respondents included increasing physician education and removing obstacles to effective care. Of the physicians surveyed, 87% agree that PDMPs offer insights into the patient’s medical history, 68% have taken continuing medical education (CME) on safe opioid prescription, 55% have taken CME on pain management with opioid alternatives, and 80% said that naloxone should be readily available to patients.

The survey also showed that many physicians actively seek more education and that 25% said that CME was not easily accessible or did not address their needs.

“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,” AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, said in a statement.

AMA President Steven J. Stack, MD, issued a call to action that included 5 recommendations for combatting the opioid epidemic. First, physicians should consider registering and using their states’ PDMPs. Second, physicians should seek to enhance their education and training in safe prescribing drugs, especially knowing when opioids are appropriate to the patient’s situation. Third, they should co-prescribe naloxone to patients who may be at a risk for overdose. Fourth, they should receive medication-assisted treatment training in order to provide for those with substance use disorders. Fifth, they should treat all patients with compassion rather than judgment, and not stigmatize those who do have substance use disorders.

“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.