AAFP Reaffirms Commitment to Addressing Opioid Crisis, U.S. House Finalizing Opioid Abuse Bill Package


As the opioid crisis continues to be a major public health concern across the country, AAFP President Wanda Filer, MD, MBA, FAAFP issued a statement on May 11 affirming the Academy's commitment to addressing the crisis and the role of Family Physicians.

"Opioid abuse is wreaking havoc in families and communities across the United States. That is why Family Physicians are working hard to balance the need for adequate pain management with the constant awareness that addiction to opioids is a national health crisis," she said.

In the AAFP statement, Dr. Filer emphasized that "opioids are not the first choice for Family Physicians treating patients with chronic pain," and referenced a 2012 study of AAFP members that showed four other treatment methods were prescribed or recommended for patients dealing with non-malignant chronic pain before opioids—physical and occupational therapy, oral NSAIDS, acetaminophen and antidepressants. Click here to read Dr. Filer's statement in its entirety.

Meanwhile, this week, the U.S. House of Representatives is wrapping up work on more than a dozen bills addressing prescription drug and opioid abuse. Included in the bill package is a measure that would increase access to opioid antagonists, such as naloxone—an issue that is also garnering attention and consideration at the state level. Michigan House Bill 5326, which would allow a pharmacist to dispense naloxone under a standing order from a physician, passed the Michigan House of Representatives unanimously on May 12 (MAFP supports the bill).

Another measure included in the U.S. House opioid package would increase the number of patients to whom physicians can prescribe buprenorphine and allows nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to prescribe the medication. The bill would raise the current cap from 100 patients to 250 patients.

Family Physician advocates addressed both issues with lawmakers during the American Academy of Family Physicians’ Family Medicine Congressional Conference (FMCC) April 18-19. During legislative visits, Family Physicians specifically requested raising the cap from the existing 100-patient limit to 200 patients. Advocates also called on Congress to increase access to naloxone. Click here to read more about the Michigan delegation work at FMCC.

U.S. House Democrats and some Republicans have called into question the lack of new funding in the House opioid package, emphasizing that more resources need to be dedicated to the effort. GOP leadership has countered that they will seek funding through the appropriations process. It is likely the House will vote on the package of bills today. If passed, they will advance to the Senate to be reconciled with the Senate’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) that passed on March 10, 2016. The Obama administration has not yet committed to supporting the House package.