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AMA urges change after dramatic increase in illicit opioid fatalities


Will COVID-19 bring change?

Dr. Harris noted that some of these regulations have been relaxed during the COVID-19 crisis so that physicians could ensure that patients have continued access to medication, and she suggested that this may pave the way for the future.

“We need now to look at this carefully and have a conversation about whether these relaxations can be continued. But this would have to be evidence based. Perhaps we can use experience from the COVID-19 period to guide future policy on this,” she said.

The report highlights that despite medical society and patient advocacy, only 21 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that limit public and private insurers from imposing prior authorization requirements on SUD services or medications.

The Task Force urges removal of remaining prior authorizations, step therapy, and other inappropriate administrative burdens that delay or deny care for Food and Drug Administration–approved medications used as part of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

The organization is also calling for better implementation of mental health and substance use disorder parity laws that require health insurers to provide the same level of benefits for mental health and SUD treatment and services that they do for medical/surgical care.

At present, only a few states have taken meaningful action to enact or enforce those laws, the report notes.

The Task Force also recommends the implementation of systems to track overdose and mortality trends to provide equitable public health interventions. These measures would include comprehensive, disaggregated racial and ethnic data collection related to testing, hospitalization, and mortality associated with opioids and other substances.

“We know that ending the drug overdose epidemic will not be easy, but if policymakers allow the status quo to continue, it will be impossible,” Dr. Harris said.

This is particularly important given concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening the drug overdose epidemic. Physicians will continue to do our part. We urge policymakers to do theirs,” she added.

A version of this article originally appeared on


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