Obama Mandates Opioid Prescribing Training for Federal Healthcare Workers

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In order to combat rising prescription opioid addiction in the United States, President Barack Obama has announced that federal healthcare providers will now be required to receive opioid prescribing training. In addition, federal employee health plans may not block medication to treat opioid addiction.

“We're ensuring that federal agencies train federal healthcare providers who prescribe opioids; it's a common sense idea that you’re already implementing here,” President Obama said in West Virginia on Wednesday, the state with the highest rate of overdose deaths. “Congress should follow that lead and make this a national priority.”

Although addiction medicine experts are calling Obama’s actions a step in the right direction, they noted that because legislation doesn’t focus on physicians who are most likely to prescribe opioids, nor does it focus on education of the public, it might not be very effective in solving the problem.

“Sadly, the physicians who think nothing of prescribing opioids (or benzodiazepines or stimulants) to their patients will not be impacted, nor will the physicians who prescribe them in good conscience,” said Una McCann, MD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Bertha Madras, PhD, professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School, agrees that this strategy doesn’t focus on the prescribing physicians, and also added that “the majority of people abusing opioids (currently 4.3 million people) are obtaining them free from friends and family: patient responsibility and education is essential.”

The American Medical Association (AMA) announced that it is partnering with the White House to combat the opioid issue, stating that the partnership will advance efforts to increase physician registration and prescription drug monitoring, increase physician training, increase access to naloxone to reduce overdose deaths, and to improve patient access to treatment for substance abuse.

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Addiction medicine experts call Obama’s actions a step in the right direction, but emphasize many more issues must be overcome.

CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Federal healthcare providers will now be required to undergo training in opioid prescribing, and federal employee health plans must not have barriers to medication treatment for opioid addiction, President Obama said here Wednesday.

"We're ensuring that federal agencies train federal healthcare providers who prescribe opioids; it's a commonsense idea that you're already implementing here in West Virginia," said Obama. "Congress should follow that lead and make this a national priority, and we look forward to working with governors and the medical community as well." The president was visiting West Virginia because the state has the country's highest rate of overdose deaths in the nation.

"There is evidence that shows medication-assisted treatment, if done properly in combination with behavioral therapy and other support counseling, and 12-step programs ... can work," he continued. "It can be an effective strategy to support recovery. We're going to identify barriers that still exist that keep us from creating more of these treatment facilities and incorporating them into our federal programs."

This article originally appeared here.
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