AMA Opioid Task Force Issues New Recommendations

"We need help from policy makers to ensure that more people have access to treatment. Physicians are responding to the epidemic and we are seeing results: a reduction in opioid prescribing of 33 percent since 2013, increased use of prescription drug monitoring programs, enhanced education, and greater co-prescribing of naloxone," said AMA President-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris, who is the task force's chair. "But we cannot enforce parity laws or eliminate administrative barriers without the help of state and federal authorities, and that's what is limiting treatment now."

The American Medical Association Opioid Task Force released new recommendations on May 30 that call on policy makers to eliminate barriers to treatment and to take other steps to end the opioid epidemic. The recommendations focus on barriers to treatment for substance use disorder and pain and other policies that limit how many patients receive care; they include prior authorization, step therapy, and other administrative burdens, as well as inadequate enforcement of state and federal laws that require insurance parity for mental health and substance use disorders.

"We need help from policy makers to ensure that more people have access to treatment. Physicians are responding to the epidemic and we are seeing results: a reduction in opioid prescribing of 33 percent since 2013, increased use of prescription drug monitoring programs, enhanced education, and greater co-prescribing of naloxone," said AMA President-elect Dr. Patrice A. Harris, who is the task force's chair. "But we cannot enforce parity laws or eliminate administrative barriers without the help of state and federal authorities, and that's what is limiting treatment now."

The new recommendations are:

  • Remove prior authorization, step therapy, and other inappropriate administrative burdens or barriers that delay or deny care for FDA-approved medications used as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.
  • Support assessment, referral, and treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders, and enforce state and federal laws that require insurance parity for mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Remove administrative and other barriers to comprehensive, multimodal, multidisciplinary pain care and rehabilitation programs.
  • Support maternal and child health by increasing access to evidence-based treatment, preserving families, and ensuring that policies are non-punitive.
  • Support reforms in the civil and criminal justice system that help ensure access to high-quality, evidence-based care for opioid use disorder, including medication-assisted treatment.

The task force's original recommendations were made in 2015. "The original task force recommendations called on physicians to accept the responsibility to take a leadership role in ending the epidemic," Harris said. "Yet more people are dying each year, emphasizing the need for policymakers to protect patients' access to evidence-based care for pain and for opioid use disorder."

The task force is comprised of the American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, and 25 specialty and state medical societies, as well as the American Dental Association.

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