AAFP Outlines Strategies for Combating, Curtailing Prescription Drug Abuse

Letter to Rockefeller Highlights Academy's Efforts

December 04, 2012 03:20 pm News Staff

The AAFP has taken a leading role in combating the nation's growing prescription drug epidemic by giving Academy members the educational tools and resources that are needed to curtail and prevent nonprescription use of opioids. That was one of the main messages the AAFP delivered to Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., in response to his request for information on the Academy's efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.

[Stock photo of pills spilling out of overturned pill bottle]

"Family physicians recognize that the increase in nonmedical use of prescription drugs is a serious public health problem, and the AAFP is actively working toward a solution to address America's pain management and opioid abuse epidemics," said AAFP Board Chair, Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., of Spokane, Wash., in a recent letter(6 page PDF) to Rockefeller.

The letter represents the latest correspondence between the AAFP and Rockefeller, who is sponsoring legislation that would require physicians to undergo mandatory education as a condition for prescribing certain drugs, such as opioids. The AAFP sent an earlier letter to Rockefeller protesting the mandate provision in the bill and outlining the extensive education family physicians undergo that makes them fully qualified to prescribe opioids.

Rockefeller's letter also posed a series of questions to identify possible barriers to combating prescription drug abuse and to learn more about the AAFP's efforts to educate Academy members about the problem. Specifically, Rockefeller asked whether the AAFP was aware of any barriers that restrict the ability of members to "effectively prevent, identify and treat prescription drug abuse -- including misuse, addiction, overdose and death through the lifespan?"

He also asked for the percentage of AAFP members with an active license to prescribe controlled substances and in what ways public and private third-party payers can help provide information, resources and tools that physicians need to make decisions regarding controlled substances.

In the response letter, Stream pointed out that the AAFP recently issued a position paper(0 bytes) on pain management and opioid abuse that makes eight overarching recommendations, including asking states to obtain physician input when considering pain management regulation and legislation and supporting the development of evidence-based physician education to ensure the safest and most effective use of long-acting and extended-release opioids.

The AAFP also stressed that preventing drug diversion requires education and cooperation from the public, as well. And the Academy pointed out the inherent difficulties of trying to prevent nonprescription use of certain medications.

"The highly variable path to drug addiction makes it difficult to predict who might develop drug dependence when prescribed an appropriate analgesic for pain management, who might misuse pain medications originally prescribed for another and become addicted, or who might take opioids for either legitimate or nonmedical use without becoming addicted," said Stream.

He described the AAFP's efforts to equip its members with tools to combat prescription drug abuse. "The AAFP is committed to improving opioid risk evaluation and mitigation strategies and CME development," said Stream. "We appreciate the need for evidence-based physician education to ensure the safest and most effective use of long acting and extended-release opioids."

According to the AAFP, approximately 25,000 of Academy members have reported CME credit for AAFP CME activities on pain. The AAFP has 179 AAFP-certified CME activities that address pain management in its educational portfolio.