Nita W. Shumaker, MD
The Tennessee Medical Association looks forward to getting more details and actively participating in the legislative and regulatory processes surrounding Governor Haslam’s TN Together plan.
Our priority within the medical community has been and still is prescriber of education and prevention of substance abuse disorder.
We have made some progress in reducing initial opioid prescriptions but still have a long way to go. We must continue to promote alternative pain management treatments that do not involve opioids while ensuring that treatments are covered by health insurance.
We do need to reduce supply and dosage, particularly for new patients and acute episodes like the hospital ER. At the same time, we want to make sure that any law(s) limiting physicians’ ability to prescribe have reasonable exceptions to continue giving relief to patients in legitimate need, such as chronic pain, oncology or hospice patients.
The most important thing physicians and other healthcare providers can do is follow the CDC chronic pain guidelines, including not co-prescribing medications that, when combined with opioids, increase the risk of accidental overdose deaths.
We will continue to champion consistent use of Tennessee’s Controlled Substance Monitoring Database, encourage screening prior to therapy, support a reduction in days’ supply when opioids are appropriate, and educate patients about the dangers of opioids, safe storage and proper disposal.
TMA is also on record calling for more funding for drug treatment programs. Tennesseans need more access to comprehensive, affordable programs that go beyond detox and offer more effective long-term results, especially for low-income people. It is important that funding is available for community support services after treatment as well.
Tennessee’s physicians have for the past several years led the charge toward safer and more appropriate prescribing patterns among all Tennessee prescribers. We remain committed to fighting this public health crisis through education, prevention and public policies that protect health and welfare of our patients.
Nita W. Shumaker, MD, serves as president of the Tennessee Medical Association.