Alabama physicians have reduced the number of opioid prescriptions by 38 percent since 2011, marking the seventh year the number of opioid prescriptions in Alabama has dropped, according to a new report by the American Medical Association Tuesday.
“These positive developments did not happen by accident,” said Dr. Aruna Arora, the president of the Alabama Medical Association. “Thanks to work and leadership from Alabama’s physicians, Governor Ivey and legislators, Alabama is on the right track in decreasing the number and potency of opioid prescriptions.”
According to the report, Alabama physicians are prescribing lower and safer dosages of opioids to prescribed patients. The dosage potency for prescribed opioids, known as the Morphine Milligram Equivalent, fell by 47 percent in Alabama, meaning less potential for overdose in prescribed opioids since 2011.
“The nation’s drug overdose and death epidemic has never just been about prescription opioids,” said American Medical Association President Gerald E. Harmon, M.D. “Physicians, have become more cautious about prescribing opioids, are trained to treat opioid use disorder and support evidence-based harm reduction strategies. We use [the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program] as a tool, but they are not a panacea. Patients need policymakers, health insurance plans, national pharmacy chains and other stakeholders to change their focus and help us remove barriers to evidence-based care.”
The Alabama Medical Association began offering an opioid prescribing education course in 2009, which has since reached more than 8,000 prescribers.
In a statement Monday, the association said in 2019, 1,414 Alabama physicians completed more than 9,450 hours of education courses, including those devoted to opioid prescribing, substance use disorder treatment, and pain management.
Physicians and other healthcare workers must report prescription information to the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a statewide resource for physicians to detect abuse of prescription medications like opioids. According to AMA, in 2020, Alabama physicians accessed the network 5.4 million times, increasing 20 percent from 2019, and more than 63 percent since 2018.
The Alabama Legislature has made strides in combating prescription drug abuse, according to AMA, further criminalizing “doctor shopping” and shoring up regulations on pain management clinics to prevent “fly-by-night” facilities operating in Alabama.
Like most other states in the U.S, Alabama has seen increases in overdose deaths from illegal narcotics like fentanyl, methamphetamine and cocaine. According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alabama reported 1,028 deaths due to drug overdose. Still, the CDC predicts that the number is underreported due to incomplete data, placing the predicted number of drug overdose deaths at 1,053 as of Feb. 2021.