AMA: Overdose epidemic requires states to remove barriers to care

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On Wednesday, the American Medical Association (AMA) and Manatt Health released a policy road map that points out effective state-based policy solutions that combat the drug overdose epidemic.

According to the report, removing barriers to evidence-based care – such as prior authorization for medications to treat opioid use disorder and increasing access to non-opioid pain alternatives – are increasingly important.

Additionally, the report said the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated treatment options and exposed gaps in how substance use disorder is treated.

“Sadly, the drug overdose epidemic continues, and it has become more complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., M.A., chair of the AMA Opioid Task Force. “It is long past due for all stakeholders to remove barriers to care and address systemic inequities that have been brought to light during this pandemic. Physicians and other health care professionals will continue to take action, and the AMA is willing to work with all stakeholders to implement these recommendations to prevent future deaths.”

The report provided a national policy roadmap that highlighted six areas where state regulators, policymakers, and other stakeholders can act, including improving access to evidence-based treatment for opioid use disorder by removing prior authorizations and other barriers to treatment medications; enforcing mental health and substance use disorder parity laws by increasing meaningful oversight; addressing network adequacy and enhancing the workforce to ensure access to addiction health care professionals; expanding pain management option to enhance access to pain care; improving harm reduction efforts by expanding access to overdose-reversing drugs and coordinating care for patients in crisis and by enhancing monitoring and evaluation of programs and policies.

“The recommendations laid out in this year’s analysis build on our work from 2019 and elevate proven solutions,” said Joel Ario, managing director of Manatt Health and former insurance commissioner in Oregon and Pennsylvania. “Still, we have an unprecedented public health challenge today, as the COVID-19 pandemic has strained our health care system, exacerbated the drug overdose epidemic, and highlighted pre-existing, systemic barriers to care facing vulnerable and underrepresented populations.”

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