Battling the opioid abuse epidemic is a priority for family physicians, and the AAFP brought that perspective to a discussion of the issue hosted by the White House last week.
The Academy and other medical organizations updated the HHS External Opioid Working Group on nonpharmacological approaches to combating opioid abuse. Andrea Palm, a senior counselor for HHS, told attendees that officials were eager to hear what the organizations were doing and asked them to identify obstacles to increasing awareness or making nonmedicinal options available to patients.
The AAFP was represented at the meeting by Shawn Martin, senior vice president of advocacy, practice advancement and policy, and Teresa Baker, senior federal government relations representative. The Academy renewed its pledge to help educate family physicians on appropriate opioid prescribing practices, increase the number of family physicians who complete training in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction, and increase overall awareness about opioid abuse and pain management.
Richard Frank, Ph.D., assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at HHS, outlined some of the latest steps the government is taking to counter opioid abuse. For example, the FDA recently approved a nasal version of naloxone for emergency personnel to administer in cases of opioid overdose. Additionally, the Health Resources and Services Administration plans to announce a grant opportunity totaling $100 million to provide naloxone for patients at federally qualified health centers, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration will provide $25 million to reduce drug diversion.
One participant suggested that other states adopt a prescription drug monitoring program similar to one now being used in Washington and Oregon that alerts personnel to patients who visit the ER frequently. In its first year, the program contributed to a 24 percent reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions.
Other attendees called for more use of buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction, better access to counseling on addiction and employment, and educating patients about storing medication where children cannot reach it.
The discussion also touched on the availability of online courses on prescribing opioids from the Collaboration for REMS (Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy) Education(www.core-rems.org) (CO*RE). The AAFP is a CO*RE strategic partner.
Importantly, several participants pointed out that although education and monitoring programs can have an effect, primary care physicians are limited when payment models do not support addiction counseling or nonprescription treatments and addiction specialists are not available.
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