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Nation's governors want to establish opioid treatment protocols

February 23, 2016
by Gary A. Enos. Contributing Editor
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The nation's governors are showing bipartisan support for a joint effort to establish treatment protocols designed to reduce prescribing of addictive prescription opioids, borrowing from some colleagues who already are moving in this direction in their individual states.

At a meeting last weekend, the National Governors Association (NGA) resolved to establish guidelines that likely could include quantitative limits on opioid prescriptions, The New York Times reported. Some governors said they want to take aggressive action on this issue because prescribing physicians and pharmaceutical companies have not done enough to curb the opioid crisis.

Then, at a White House meeting on Feb. 22, a group of NGA members asked President Obama if the administration could move to limit prescriptions for opioids given after minor procedures. The president did not address that topic directly, but discussed other opioid-related initiatives in the administration and suggested that some solutions would be most effectively generated at the state and local level.

Obama this week noted the rare bipartisan support that is surrounding efforts to combat the opioid crisis. NGA leaders last weekend issued a joint statement with the chair-elect of the American Medical Association (AMA) calling for more integration of prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) data into everyday medical practice, removal of federal barriers to the prescribing of buprenorphine for opioid dependence, and broader access to the overdose reversal medication naloxone, among other initiatives.

The statement reads in part that “prescribing medications excessively or 'just in case' is not acceptable and continues to fuel this growing epidemic. Guidelines are an important tool to prevent over-prescribing and identify the signs of addiction while meeting the needs of patients in pain.”

One of the signers of the statement, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, has been seeking to advance through his state's legislature a measure to limit the quantity of initial prescriptions of opioids. Such initiatives generally meet with opposition from physician groups that want prescribing authority to remain in doctors' hands.

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