Physicians Group Cautions Against Hardline Approach When Prescribing Opioids

By Will Stone
Published: Monday, November 19, 2018 - 8:43am
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018 - 8:45am
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As states like Arizona try to prevent opioid abuse and overdoses, the country’s largest physicians association is cautioning against a hard-line approach when treating patients.

At its November meeting, the American Medical Association passed a resolution affirming that patients who benefit from the drug should not lose access.

The AMA’s resolution comes as government agencies, insurers and pharmacies have reigned in opioid prescribing. Arizona did just that earlier this year when it passed a sweeping law that, among many things, limited how much most doctors can prescribe. Those rules were modeled on the 2016 guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"What is happening in some places is that it is becoming gospel, if you will," said Dr. Ross Goldberg, who is vice president of the Arizona chapter of the AMA.

The resolution advocates against "misapplying" the CDC guidelines and states "that some patients with acute or chronic pain can benefit from taking opioids at greater dosages than recommended."

"The AMA wants to make sure doctors are not being penalized if they have to go over that. We don’t want to set a line in the sand and say you're going to get into this amount of trouble if you do it," said Goldberg. "The point of the [Arizona] law, which I agree with, is if you don't need to prescribe as much opioids, you shouldn't."

Goldberg believes the AMA's resolution isn’t in conflict with Arizona’s opioid law, which he calls ahead of the curve.

But some say Arizona did go too far in restricting opioids.

Gail Ashing is a nurse who also suffers from chronic pain. She gathered with other patients at the Arizona capitol in September to protest the opioid rules.

"I am seeing patients coming in who are not being treated properly for pain. I have seen cancer patients who are seen in the hospital, and the doctors in the ERs are afraid to write for anything,” said Ashing.

While the Arizona law did include exceptions for some conditions, Ashing said many doctors are still too afraid to prescribe given the current opioid crisis.

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