2018 Advocacy Preview: Combating Opioid Abuse

Date of Publication November 10, 2017

In recent weeks, Governor Reynolds declared Opioid Awareness Week in Iowa and hosted a series of events to examine solutions to the problem. On the federal level, President Trump declared opioid abuse a public health emergency and the commission he appointed to examine the problem recently issued its final report. Iowa’s Attorney General is in the early stages of a multi-state class action lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry alleging deceptive past opioid marketing practices and a Legislative Interim Study Committee recently wrapped up a two-day meeting studying the problem of opioid abuse in our state. To say that there is a significant level of interest among policymakers in this issue, would be an understatement.

IMS strongly supports physicians playing a leading role in the fight against opioid abuse. Unfortunately, too often the solutions put forward by policymakers attempt to enact one-size-fits-all solutions to this multi-faceted problem. Measures like mandating prescriber use of the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) as a means of reducing the opioids in circulation, fail to take into account the fact that opioid prescribing rates in Iowa have declined significantly in the last three years. Simultaneously, while the overall rates of opioid overdose deaths continue to climb, the rates of prescription opioid overdose deaths have dropped dramatically since 2014. These two metrics would indicate that the prescribing community is making progress in reducing its reliance on opioids for pain management.

As IMS looks to the 2018 Legislative Session, we must prepare to educate lawmakers on why prescriber mandates are not the most productive approach to combating opioid abuse, given the success of voluntary efforts to reduce prescriptions. With the number of Iowans dying from illicit opioid overdoses continuing to grow and demand for substance use disorder treatment at an all-time high, policymakers are better positioned to make an impact on this problem by focusing their efforts in these areas. In 2018, IMS will support a series of proactive measures to further improve informed prescribing practices, reduce harm exposure, and decrease barriers to care. These will include:

  • Expanding Voluntary Prescriber Educational Options
  • Expediting PMP Reporting at the Time Medications Are Dispensed>/li>
  • Improving the Functionality and EHR Integration Capabilities of the PMP
  • Registering Prescribers for the PMP at the Time of Renewing Their CSA Registration
  • Enacting Good Samaritan Protections When Contacting Authorities in Overdose Situations
  • Authorizing Syringe Exchange Programs to Reduce Infections From Injection Opioid Use
  • Expanding Access to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Options

For more information on this proposed IMS advocacy priority, please contact Dennis Tibben with the IMS Center for Physician Advocacy.

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