The director of the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, Orman Hall, calls Ohio’s opioid epidemic “the most important public health crisis the state has ever faced.” Ohio doctors agree.
The Ohio State Medical Association does not believe Mr. Hall overstates the impact that the widespread prevalence and heavy toll of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction are having on our communities. We are taking the lead in developing and applying long-term solutions that focus on physician awareness and patient responsibility to address this problem.
OSMA, the state’s largest physician-led advocacy and education association, represents nearly 20,000 doctors, practice managers, medical residents, and students. Physicians understand their role in this public-health crisis.
Many of the pills that fall into the hands of people they were not intended for were legitimately obtained at some point from a prescription written by a physician. Doctors understand that too often, the medication they prescribe to help patients is misused and abused.
This year, OSMA will launch a statewide effort aimed at increasing physician and patient education and awareness about proper prescribing habits and correct consumption of prescription drugs. We want this campaign to help change attitudes and reduce the use of opiates and opioids in Ohio.
For much of the past few years, we have directed a great deal of our time and resources toward combating Ohio’s prescription drug abuse problem. Starting in late 2013 and continuing this year, members of the state House of Representatives have introduced legislation intended to pull Ohio out of the throes of this epidemic. OSMA has worked closely on a number of these bills and supports the vast majority of them.
Of the 13 opioid-related bills pending in the Statehouse, OSMA backs 10 of the measures, is neutral on one, and opposes two. We’ve closely analyzed and worked with key stakeholders to make these proposed measures as beneficial as possible for physicians and their patients.
House Bill 341 offers a prime example of the legislature and the prescriber community working together on a measure that is reasonable but effective. The bill would require prescribers to check the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) patient database before they provide prescriptions under certain circumstances.
For physicians, OARRS provides a snapshot of each patient’s statewide prescription drug history. The result is a well-defined picture for the physician to consider when contemplating the patient’s subsequent treatment.
OSMA also supports legislation geared to educating Ohioans on the dangers of prescription drug abuse (House Bills 367 and 399), as well as saving the lives of addicts and moving them into treatment programs (House Bills 92, 363, and 369).
But our efforts predate the most recent legislation. We supported legislation in 2011 to shut down Ohio’s pill mills, which had literally fed prescription drugs to entire regions of the state. We now have strictly and appropriately regulated pain management clinics.
OSMA also actively participates in Gov. John Kasich’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team. We have been integral partners in developing prescribing guidelines for treating patients in emergency room settings, as well as those who suffer from long-term chronic pain.
Shutting down the pill mills and developing necessary prescribing guidelines have been effective. More prescribers are registered with OARRS. The number of prescriptions written is steadily decreasing.
We are making progress, but there is more work to be done. Ohio’s physicians are committed to supporting and shepherding through the General Assembly the most recent batch of bills that aim to eradicate prescription drug abuse.
Ohio is in the midst of a battle with a fierce and unrelenting enemy. The physicians of this state are committed to winning that battle, by developing smart initiatives and supporting responsible legislation that targets prescription drug abuse and saves lives.
Mary J. Wall, M.D., is president of the Ohio State Medical Association.