Oregon's Progress in addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Additional effort required to bolster promising results

PORTLAND, Ore.—(May 31, 2018)—The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a new report today documenting how physician leadership is advancing the fight against the opioid epidemic, here in Oregon and in other states.

Report findings demonstrate that efforts by the Oregon Medical Association (OMA) and partner organizations are having the encouraging effects of tackling the opioid crisis in Oregon—but that continuing the positive trend will require sustained and vigorous action on the part of the state’s lawmakers and healthcare providers, as well as the general public.

The report, which is being released as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force meets for the first time, found a decrease in opioid prescribing and increases in the use of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), number of physicians trained and certified to treat patients with an opioid use disorder, and in access to naloxone, a medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose.

“These statistics provide hope,” said Andris Antoniskis, MD, an OMA past president and co-chair of the OMA’s Opioid Task Force. “This epidemic, years in the making, is finally seeing a glimmer of light.”

“But one overdose death is one too many,” continued Dr. Antoniskis. “The state’s physicians and physician assistants are committed to continuing to see the prescribing of unnecessary opioids go down and the queries into the PDMP go up.”

Report findings include:

  • Opioid prescribing has decreased for the fifth year in a row. Physicians have decreased opioid prescriptions nationwide for the fifth year in a row. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of opioid prescriptions decreased by more than 55 million—a 22.2 percent decrease nationally. Decreases occurred in every state. Oregon trends slightly better than the national average, with a 25.5 percent decrease during the same time period.
  • PDMP registration and use continues to increase. In 2017, healthcare professionals nationwide accessed state databases more than 300.4 million times–a 121 percent increase from 2016. States with and without mandates to use the PDMP saw large increases. Here in Oregon, PDMP queries jumped from 1,210,440 in 2016, to 1,376,106 in 2017—an increase of more than 13 percent.
  • Physicians are enhancing their education. In 2017, nearly 550,000 physicians and other healthcare professionals took continuing medical education classes and other education and training in pain management, substance use disorders, and related areas. Many of these resources are offered by the AMA, state societies such as the OMA, and medical specialty societies, and more than 350 of these resources can be found on the AMA opioid microsite, located online at http://end-opioid-epidemic.org.
  • Access to naloxone is rising. Naloxone prescriptions more than doubled in 2017, from approximately 3,500 to 8,000 naloxone prescriptions dispensed weekly. So far in 2018, that upward trend has continued; as of April, 11,600 naloxone prescriptions are dispensed weekly, the highest rate on record.
  • Treatment capacity is increasing. As of May of this year, there were more than 50,000 physicians certified to provide buprenorphine in-office for the treatment of opioid use disorders across all 50 states, a 42.4-percent increase in the past 12 months.

“There is still much we need to do,” said Amy Kerfoot, MD, an OMA trustee and the association’s representative to the governor’s Opioid Epidemic Task Force. “We have to ensure that all patients, no matter their level of insurance coverage, have access to medication-assisted treatment and addiction services. There should be as few hurdles as possible to get someone the treatment needed to overcome an addiction to any drug.”

To further address the opioid epidemic, the OMA and AMA urge policymakers and insurers to remove barriers to care for pain and substance use disorders. These steps include:

  • All public and private payers should ensure that their formularies include all FDA-approved forms of medication assisted treatment (MAT) and remove administrative barriers to treatment, including prior authorization.
  • Policymakers and regulators should increase oversight and enforcement of parity laws for mental health and substance use disorders to ensure patients receive the care that they need.
  • All public and private payers—as well as pharmacy benefit management companies—must ensure that patients have access to affordable, non-opioid pain care.
  • All of us should help put an end to stigma. Patients with pain or substance use disorders deserve the same care and compassion as any other patient with a chronic medical condition.

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The Oregon Medical Association engages in advocacy, policy, and community for over 8,000 physicians, physician assistants, and medical and PA students in Oregon, organized to serve and support physicians in their efforts to improve the health of Oregonians. Additional information is available at theOMA.org.

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