Today the American Medical Association (AMA) released its Opioid Task Force 2020 Progress Report, which shows that, nationally, physicians have reduced opioid prescribing by 37 percent, increased use of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP), and increased the prescribing of naloxone. However, the report also shows that there has been a dramatic increase in fatalities involving illicit opioids, stimulants (e.g. methamphetamine), heroin, and cocaine. Colorado data shows similar trends. This report highlights the important work of physicians and others, offers important data to help target next steps, and should serve as a stark reminder that continued focus on the opioid epidemic is necessary.
Colorado has taken a number of positive steps toward addressing the opioid and drug overdose epidemics over the last several years, including important bills passed by the Colorado legislature (see a summary here) as well as collaborative, provider-led initiatives like CO’s CURE, which is developing nationally recognized, evidence-based guidelines to address and resolve the opioid epidemic in Colorado. The AMA’s report and existing Colorado data emphasize that more work is needed. “Since 2013, physicians have been at the forefront of this fight against the opioid epidemic and we are committed to continuing that critical work on behalf of our patients and communities,” said CMS President David Markenson, MD, MBA.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the challenges that many Coloradans face, which has increased the need for continued action on opioids. “Colorado must take steps to continue its positive momentum and maintain its place as a forward-thinking leader in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” Markenson said. Now is the time to revisit the plan that physicians put together as part of CMS’s Multi-Specialty Convening on Opioids, which, among other things, emphasizes the need to remove administrative and other barriers to comprehensive, multimodal, multidisciplinary pain care and rehabilitation programs.