44% drop in opioid Rx since 2011, but overdoses spike. Here’s why.

A report newly issued by the AMA shows that opioid prescribing nationwide has dropped 44.4% in the past decade and fell nearly 7% from 2019 to 2020. At the same time, the country is facing a worsening epidemic of drug-related overdoses and deaths.

Overdoses and deaths are spiking even as physicians and other clinicians have greatly increased the use of prescription drug-monitoring programs (PDMPs)—more than 910 million times in 2020, according to the AMA’s “2021 Overdose Epidemic Report” (PDF). That’s up 21% from the 750 million times that PDMPs were used in 2019 by doctors and others.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Medicare should pay for telehealth list services after pandemic

The AMA has weighed in with more than 100 pages of comments on the proposed 2022 Medicare physician payment schedule. The comments come with doctors eager to see extended coverage of telehealth amid a COVID-19 pandemic that has cut practice revenues. That income drop comes ahead of the combined 9.75% reduction in Medicare physician pay that will start Jan. 1 unless Congress takes action.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

For doctors hit hard by COVID-19 stress, there are tools to help

The COVID-19 pandemic’s emotionally pulverizing impact on physicians and the health-professional workforce has exacerbated the mental health and burnout crisis within health care and demands action. …

Here is a collection of news articles that detail other steps the AMA is taking to prevent suicide among doctors and the resources that individuals and organizations can use to help save lives.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

ATF on right track in fighting proliferation of “ghost guns”

The AMA is supporting a regulatory move to ensure that federal firearms control laws apply to so-called ghost guns.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has proposed updating the definitions of “firearm” and related parts for the first time since 1968 to modernize the definition of “frame or receiver.” That would help close a regulatory loophole associated with the unserialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes across the country.

“These unmarked firearms, known as ‘ghost guns,’ are often assembled from kits that are sold without background checks, making them easily acquired by criminals who otherwise would not be permitted to possess a firearm,” AMA Executive Vice President and CEO James L. Madara, MD, wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who oversees the ATF, a Department of Justice agency. “The AMA supports this important proposed rule and urges that it be finalized without delay.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Texas SB 8 puts bounties on doctors’ heads for delivering care

A new Texas law bans virtually all abortions in the state after about six weeks’ gestation and invites private parties to file civil lawsuits against anyone performing or “aiding and abetting” an abortion.

A successful civil lawsuit under the Texas legislation, Senate Bill 8, would allow plaintiffs to collect a minimum of $10,00 for each abortion challenged. The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an emergency application to block the law from taking effect.

The AMA “is deeply disturbed by Texas SB 8 and disappointed” by the Supreme Court’s “allowing this egregious law to go into effect,” said Gerald E. Harmon, MD, a South Carolina family physician and president of the AMA.

“This significant overreach not only bans virtually all abortions in the state, but it interferes in the patient-physician relationship and places bounties on physicians and health care workers simply for delivering care,” he added. “Opening the door to third-party litigation against physicians severely compromises patient access to safe clinical care.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

AMA: Time to mandate COVID-19 vaccination is now

With the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine earning full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant wreaking havoc amid sluggish national rates of immunization, the AMA is strongly urging employers to require that their workers get vaccinated.

“Now is the time for the public and private sectors to come together, listen to the science, and mandate vaccination,” said AMA President Gerald E. Harmon, MD.

“The FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the meticulously collected evidence from more than 100 million vaccinated Americans is clear: The vaccines we have to defeat COVID-19 are safe, effective, and the only way out of this pandemic,” Dr. Harmon added, noting that “vaccine supply is ample, and for months, access has been easier.”

Nearly all U.S. doctors—over 96%—are vaccinated against COVID-19, according to an AMA survey conducted in May.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.