Maintaining a dialogue between physicians and their elected officials is key to ensuring that Pennsylvania's laws support patients' needs. That was the clear message of the latest meeting of the Pennsylvania Medical Society's (PAMED's) Board of Trustees, held in Harrisburg on Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2017.
PAMED physician leaders met with both Pennsylvania Representative Doyle Heffley (R-122nd District) and new Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro about the commonwealth's opioid abuse crisis and other issues faced by physicians and patients.
A Discussion with Rep. Heffley on the Opioid Abuse Crisis
Rep. Heffley understands the impact of the commonwealth's opioid abuse crisis on families in his Carbon County district, and he's passionate about finding solutions. Prior to becoming a legislator, he worked in the trucking industry, where he learned to look closely at a problem to find the underlying causes.
Rep. Doyle Heffley takes questions from the PAMED Board about possible legislation that would require health insurers to cover the cost of abuse deterrent opioid analgesic drugs.
During the 2015-2016 legislative session, Rep. Heffley introduced a House bill which sought to require health insurers to cover the cost of abuse deterrent opioid (ADO) analgesic drug products. While PAMED strongly supported the underlying purpose of the bill, serious concerns were raised about a last-minute Senate amendment to the legislation.
The amendment would have directed the creation of mandatory prescribing guidelines for ADOs and required prescribers to distribute educational materials to every patient they prescribe any opioid to. PAMED was concerned that the amendment took a "one size fits all" approach that would not have taken into account the unique clinical needs of each patient. Ultimately, the bill was not passed during the 2015-2016 session.
Rep. Heffley plans to reintroduce ADO legislation this session. He is open to continuing a dialogue with PAMED in order to find a solution that will be in the best interest of patients.
Attorney General Shapiro Welcomes the Physician Perspective
Pennsylvania Attorney General Shapiro identified opioid abuse as a priority issue. He highlighted ways that the commonwealth can address the crisis, including:
- Change the focus of how we deal with the crisis, understanding that addiction is a disease that should be treated with compassion.
- Coordinate better across all law enforcement circuits and with our 67 district attorneys.
- Make sure data is getting into the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) and that it's not overly burdensome on physician practices.
- Work with pharmaceutical companies to prevent things like deceptive marketing for opioids.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro talks with PAMED about ways to collaborate in addressing the opioids crisis.
AG Shapiro extended a hand to PAMED's physician leaders, welcoming the opportunity to collaborate on ways to combat the crisis. He invited physicians to meet in the near-term with the Attorney General's Office senior staff to discuss things like best practices in prescribing.
"Leading this effort with a unified voice is important," he said. "I want to begin the dialogue with all of you [physicians] since you're on the front line."
AG Shapiro is also interested in hearing the physician perspective on things like the Maintenance of Certification process, which in certain cases may be creating artificial barriers to care. "We need to rebalance our medical system here in PA," he said.
PAMED will continue to share updates with members on any new opioids legislation as well as the results of any ongoing dialogue with lawmakers and state agencies.