Syringes, pills and prescription bottles The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimatethat more than 130 Americans die after overdosing on opioids,mostly heroin and illicitly distributed versions of fentanyl.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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A new report from the AMA Opioid Task Force finds that for thefifth year in a row, not just the number of prescriptions but also therecommended dosage for opioids has fallen. And while there's moreto do, doctors are pushing lawmakers to take additional action,such as removing barriers to treatment.

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So says a report from the American Medical Association,which highlighted some of the results from the task force's data.The number of prescriptions for opioids, for instance, dropped bymore than 80 million, or 33 percent nationally, in the periodbetween 2013 and 2018. Just between 2017 and 2018, opioidprescriptions fell by 12.4 percent—20 million fewer.

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Related: Responding to criticism, FDA takes action on opioidoversight

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In addition, prescription opioid total morphine milligramequivalents have fallen 43 percent since 2011, falling 17.1 percentjust in 2018—with each state in the country recording a drop inopioid prescriptions over the last five years.

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Prescription monitoring is up, with more than 460 millionqueries made in 2018—that's more than triple the number made in2016—to keep tabs via states' prescription drug monitoringprograms.

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The demand for naloxone—the opioid overdose antidote—is up,with the number of prescriptions for it rising from 136,395 in 2016to almost 600,000 in 2018.

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The report acknowledges that there's more to be done,particularly since the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionestimate that more than 130 Americans die after overdosing onopioids, mostly heroin and illicitly distributed versions offentanyl.

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“We need help from policymakers to ensure that more people haveaccess to treatment,” says AMA President-elect Patrice A.Harris, MD, who also is chair of the taskforce. ”Physicians are responding to the epidemic and weare seeing results. But we cannot enforce parity laws, or eliminateadministrative barriers without the help of state and federalauthorities, and that's what is limiting treatment now.”

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The task force has issued a number of recommendations,including:

  • The removal of punitive policies, prior authorization barriers,step therapy and other methods that impose delays or obstacles tomedication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder
  • Removing administrative and other barriers from comprehensive,multimodal, multidisciplinary pain care and rehabilitationprograms
  • Additional support for assessment, referral and treatment forco-occurring mental health disorders
  • Enforcement of state and federal laws that require insuranceparity for mental health and substance-use disorders
  • Improved access to evidence-based treatment; and reforms in thecivil and criminal justice system
  • More help to ensure access to medication-assisted treatment andother forms of proven quality care

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