Evidence is mounting that the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening the opioid epidemic, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).
This week, the AMA updated policy recommendations to guide states and others amid the pandemic. The recommendations are designed to help policymakers reduce the stress experienced by patients with an opioid use disorder and pain, and to support efforts to continue harm reduction efforts in communities across the United States.
Among its recommendations, the AMA is urging governors to adopt new U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) guidance that provides flexibility for doctors managing patients with opioid use disorder. This includes authorizing prescriptions for buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorder to new and existing patients based on a phone evaluation.
The AMA also supports designating medications to treat addiction (buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone) and medications to reverse opioid-related overdose (naloxone) as “essential services” to reduce barriers to access during “shelter-in-place” orders.
“The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has already waived federal requirements for in-person visits before controlled substance prescribing; we encourage states to take similar action for their controlled substance regulations,” the AMA stated.