New Jersey’s Physicians at the Forefront of Addiction Prevention and Treatment Efforts, MSNJ Spearheading Reform
Physicians throughout the state of New Jersey continue to be at the forefront of addiction prevention and treatment efforts – and MSNJ is spearheading real reform in this area. Here is a breakdown of what we are doing:
- Understanding that opioids may fall into the wrong hands and must be prescribed only when needed, New Jersey physicians already prescribe fewer opioids than physicians in other states, so that the potential for misuse is already low. MSNJ asks that all physicians use the state Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP), and have long advocated for it to be a more reliable, accurate and accessible healthcare tool. We applaud Governor Christie for signing S1998 this week, as it requires these improvements.
- We are also encouraging patients to store medications securely and dispose of any unused or unneeded medicine so that it is not stolen or misused. MSNJ supports A-709, also recently signed by Governor Christie, which requires patients to receive information about proper disposal, since most prescription drug abuse occurs when a patient’s medicine is taken by someone else. According to statistics from the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, only about 20 percent of medication that is abused comes directly through patient prescriptions. As such, we must focus on reducing diversion.
- Addiction specialist physicians are on the front lines in treating addiction. We strongly support legislation that would improve insurance coverage of addiction treatment (S324, S2180 and A3830). While the New Jersey Senate has taken the lead in moving a 21-bill package on addiction issues, it has not yet passed these bills, despite the vast number of patients who cannot obtain treatment due to insurance barriers.
- MSNJ has also held numerous educational events for physicians to learn new tools. We hosted six regional events with the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey and several more, reaching thousands of doctors across the state with the message and goal of diversion and addiction prevention.
MSNJ believes in informed consent and our members follow regulations requiring consent for opioids prescribed for chronic pain. But, we continue to oppose S2366 because the science does not support this mandate. The risk of addiction for medication prescribed for acute pain is extremely low. And, because most addiction stems from diversion, S2366 will not be as effective as A709 and S1998. Patients who are legitimately prescribed medicine are not the ones who become addicted. This is why focus on diversion is so important.
Statutory mandates like S2366 also restrict physicians to practices that are considered ideal at one moment in time. But, in reality, doctors are constantly evolving their practices as public health needs change, medical knowledge advances and technology improves. In fact, physicians are changing their prescribing practices and using new tools to ensure medications are used properly. For example, physicians prescribing opioids are requiring patients to sign agreements to adhere to treatment plans so that there is a shared responsibility and understanding of medication protocols.
The public must also remember that doctors prescribe medications for the health and comfort of our patients. Opioids and other medications may be needed after a traumatic event, such as an injury or surgery, or to enable a patient to function day-to-day and enjoy a decent quality of life. As former New Jersey Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said when introducing the PMP, “High levels of prescribing and dispensing of controlled drugs are not necessarily indicators of illegal activity or drug abuse. While working to stop abuse, we must remain mindful of the legitimate uses of medication and ensure practitioners are empowered to meet their patients’ healthcare needs.”
Physicians should not be blamed for the recent heroin surge, but rather supported in their efforts to treat and fight for insurance coverage for their patients. MSNJ will continue to advocate for the improvement of healthcare for our patients and will continue to partner with the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey, the Legislature, the Governor and his departments and all interested stakeholders toward our shared goal of preventing diversion and abuse and keeping our state healthy.