Several of the country's largest physician organizations are collaborating to address the recent rise in drug overdoses deaths that are due, in part, to the increased use of prescription opioid painkillers.
A total of 27 physician groups led by the American Medical Association are urging physicians to register in prescription drug monitoring programs as a way to identify patients who may be at risk of abusing opioid drugs.
“We have joined together as part of this special task force because we collectively believe that it is our responsibility to work together to provide a clear road map that will help bring an end to this public health epidemic,” Dr. Patrice Harris, AMA Board chair-elect, said in a statement. “We are committed to working long term on a multipronged, comprehensive public health approach to end opioid abuse in America.”
The initiative includes a new web page that provides information on drug monitoring programs as well as alternatives treatment options physicians can use to reduce the risk of overprescribing.
Prescribed opioids used for non-medical purposes were identified as the most likely to cause overdose, according to a March 2104 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that over the past decade, overdose deaths have more than doubled to 38,000.
Overdoses from opioid drugs during that time rose from 4,030 in 1999 to 16,651 in 2010. A study that appeared in JAMA in November found 67.8% of opioid-related drug overdoses treated in emergency departments in 2010 involved painkillers prescribed by a physician, totaling more than 91,000 visits in that year.