Congress "Scared" To Take On American Medical Association Over Opioids

By Victoria Kim 05/31/18

A senator recently called out Congress for not standing up to the AMA for stalling progress on anti-opioid abuse regulations.

US capitol building

A powerful physicians lobby is blocking efforts in Congress to regulate the way certain medications like opioid painkillers are prescribed, according to a new report.

According to the Daily Beast, the American Medical Association has actively lobbied against certain measures that seek to limit the way that doctors give opioid prescriptions. And according to some members of Congress, fellow lawmakers are “too scared” to go up against the massive organization.

This may have to do with the fact that in 2017, the AMA was the seventh highest lobbying spender ($21.5 million), and in 2016 gave nearly $2 million to members of Congress.

The AMA has been forthright in its opposition to measures included in the Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act 2.0 (a proposed update to the 2016 law by the same name) that would limit opioid prescriptions to a three-day supply, according to Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, a co-sponsor of the bill.

The AMA also opposes mandatory opioid education for doctors, as well as the required use of prescription drug databases to check a patient’s history with certain drugs before prescribing a new medication.

Members of Congress are “too scared to take on the AMA,” thus stalling progress on anti-opioid abuse regulation, said Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Many of the measures that the AMA is against appear on a list of guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2016.

The guidelines—which do not apply to palliative care, end-of-life care, or cancer treatment—encourage physicians to “start low and go slow” when prescribing opioid painkillers for chronic pain, and to “prescribe no more than needed.”

The CDC also advises physicians to discuss the risk factors of using opioid medication with all patients, and to review each patient’s prescription drug history via the prescription drug monitoring database before prescribing.   

But the AMA does not see a solution in mandating these reforms through legislation.

“Limits and one-size-fits-all approaches will not end this epidemic,” the organization said in a statement. “The AMA has urged Congress, statehouses, and payers to cover evidence-based treatment that works. Most patients with opioid use disorder have trouble accessing care as payers and others put up obstacle.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr