How states are taking on the national Rx abuse crisis

AMA Wire
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As the nation’s prescription drug abuse crisis continues its devastating course—with 46 people dying every day from overdose and many more requiring hospitalization—physicians and policymakers are trying to tackle the issue head on, at both the national and state levels.

Here are some key ways prescription drug abuse is being addressed in the states:

Overdose reversal legislation

Many state lawmakers have embraced the opportunity to help prevent opioid overdose deaths by supporting legislation for the overdose reversal drug naloxone. As of mid-May, 24 states and the District of Columbia passed laws to increase access to this life-saving antidote, according to a report of the Network for Public Health Law. “Good Samaritan” laws that encourage people to call for medical aid in the event of a drug overdose also have been adopted in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

The AMA and numerous state and specialty medical associations have been instrumental in supporting and securing enactment of these laws over the past few years.

While these laws provide access to a key medication for saving lives, they are only a part of the bigger picture. A comprehensive public health approach with a focus on prevention and treatment is essential to help get this ever-growing crisis under control.

Access to addiction treatment and recovery programs

As the National Governors Association continues its work to develop recommendations for addressing drug abuse, the AMA has helped convince this influential group (AMA login required) to place a greater emphasis on treatment programs to help break the cycle of addiction. That includes removing barriers to access and making treatment programs more affordable.

Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP)

Many states have turned to these data registries to track patients’ use of prescription drugs. Unfortunately, many programs are underfunded and inadequately maintained. The AMA is calling for state governors and lawmakers to focus on making real-time data available and enabling interstate interoperability to make sure data is shared properly.

Additionally, the AMA has urged the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (AMA login required) to consider how PDMPs can be used as beneficial clinical support tools.

Clinical standards

Some states have considered mandating standards of care for prescribing painkillers, but the AMA is advocating for a more targeted approach that allows physicians to exercise the appropriate balance between preventing overuse of drugs and under-treatment of pain. A patient-specific focus, not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, is required to achieve this goal.

Task forces, public education and drug take-back

Other community leaders also are increasing efforts around this issue. Active prescription drug task forces are in 34 states, up from 29 in 2012, according to a recent survey of the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.

A number of states also have established ongoing drug take-back programs to help residents dispose of unused medications. Kentucky, for instance, offers disposal locations in 110 of its 120 counties. Oklahoma also has a statewide plan, and Pennsylvania offers an online map of safe disposal locations. Several other states have passed legislation around making these programs available.

Read more online about the AMA’s efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and diversion in the states and at the national level.

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