From 1996 through June 2014, administration of naloxone by nonmedical personnel has saved the lives of more than 26,000 people in the United States, according to the CDC.
Recognizing that positive outcome, the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse(www.ama-assn.org) recently posted a resource(3 page PDF) encouraging family physicians and other health care professionals to consider coprescribing naloxone to patients, their family members or close friends when a patient is considered at risk for overdose.
Robert Rich, M.D., chair of the AAFP Commission on Health of the Public and Science and the Academy's representative on the task force, told AAFP News that family physicians and other primary care health professionals -- who treat the bulk of chronic pain patients and, therefore, write the majority of their prescriptions for opioid pain relievers -- welcome anything that can reduce the incidence of fatal overdose from these medications.
The resource offers several questions for family physicians to consider in determining whether to coprescribe naloxone to a patient or the patient's family member or close friend:
- The AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse recently posted a resource encouraging family physicians to consider coprescribing naloxone to patients, their family members or close friends when there is a risk for opioid overdose.
- The resource offers several questions for family physicians to consider.
- It includes information on naloxone access laws and Good Samaritan laws to protect and expand the number of people who can help save lives by administering the drug.
- Is my patient on a high opioid dose?
- Is my patient on a concomitant benzodiazepine prescription?
- Does my patient have a history of substance use disorder?
- Does my patient have an underlying mental health condition that might make him or her more susceptible to overdose?
- Does my patient have a medical condition, such as a respiratory disease or other comorbidities, that might make him or her susceptible to opioid toxicity, respiratory distress or overdose?
- Might my patient be in a position to aid someone who is at risk of opioid overdose?
In addition, the guide includes information on naloxone access laws and Good Samaritan laws intended to protect and expand the number of people who can help save lives from opioid overdose by administering the drug. Other resources on naloxone and opioid overdose prevention are included, as well.
"FPs will hopefully use this flyer to encourage more patients, friends and family members to agree to put an opioid rescue plan in place and agree to a prescription for naloxone," Rich said. "FPs also can use the flyer to advocate at their state legislative level for the passage of naloxone access laws and to advocate for the passage of Good Samaritan laws."
With the increased availability of naloxone, studies from states that have expanded access to the medication have revealed lower rates of fatal overdoses from prescription opioids and street drugs, he added.
Comprising 27 physician organizations, including the AAFP, the AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse was formed in 2014 to identify best practices to combat opioid abuse and to swiftly implement those practices in physician offices across the United States. Promoting naloxone education and use is a first step in combating the opioid abuse epidemic.
"Increased use of naloxone for management of opioid overdoses is one important part of the overall efforts, such as increased provider education, improved pain guidelines, increased use of prescription drug monitoring program data, etc., to lower the incidence of misuse, abuse and overdose of opioid pain relievers," Rich said.
The task force also has been busy creating additional materials, including a call to action on behalf of patients with addiction that is in the works.
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Program is Piece of HHS Plan to Help With National Opioid Problem