American Society of Anesthesiologists Offers Recommendations for U.S. Congress to Address Opioid Epidemic - American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)

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American Society of Anesthesiologists Offers Recommendations for U.S. Congress to Address Opioid Epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As leaders in pain medicine and patient safety, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has proposed several ways for Congress to address the ongoing opioid abuse epidemic through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) programs.  In response to a request by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, ASA put forth several recommendations for combatting opioid abuse, including increased funding for research, coverage for non-opioid alternatives, including interventional therapies for chronic pain, and Congressional support for public-private education initiatives aimed at improving practices in the perioperative setting and encouraging opioid sparing techniques.

“With a unique understanding of the intricacies of short-term pain management, non-opioid alternative treatment strategies, and long-term pain management, physician anesthesiologists’ role in the delivery of care makes us integral to reducing opioid use throughout the perioperative period and upon discharge after surgery,” said ASA President James Grant, M.D., M.B.A., FASA. “We’re committed to combatting the ongoing crisis by reducing patients’ reliance on opioids and supporting evidence-based treatment options to address our patients’ health care needs in a safe and effective manner.”

ASA supports increased patient access to Medicare and Medicaid coverage of multimodal, multi-disciplinary pain management, including safe and effective opioid prescribing. A comprehensive, patient-centered approach to pain management may also include interventional therapies (e.g., epidural steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation, and neuromodulation), which are key non-opioid therapies for the treatment of chronic pain.  These techniques have been shown to reduce and eliminate pain, improve function, decrease reliance on opioids, and for some patients eliminate the need for surgery.  ASA strongly believes that increased coverage must be coupled with increased funding for research. It is only through significant, dedicated and focused resources committed to this area that we can gain a better understanding of the most appropriate and effective treatments for chronic pain. 

To educate hospitals and physician practices on clinical guidelines and best practices for opioid pain management, ASA also supports public/private initiatives.  This would encourage more responsible prescribing in both hospitals and physician practices and reduce the number of unused opioids. ASA encourages Congress to support a grant program targeting the perioperative setting because statistics have shown that many individuals experience problems with misuse or addiction following a surgical procedure or through diversion of prescription opioids stemming from a surgical procedure. ASA is currently collaborating with Premier, Inc. and their network of hospitals in a nationwide opioid safety pilot to reduce harm associated with the use of opioids in patients undergoing certain high-volume surgical procedures. Scaling a project of this kind across the care continuum would accelerate safer pain management practices nationwide.

Efforts to combat the opioid crisis will only be successful if coverage and payment policies for physician anesthesiologists are aligned with the critical services that support pain treatment therapies and substance use disorders (SUDs). Proper clinical guidelines with appropriate payment incentives are key to promoting desired behavior from health care providers.  

Founded in 1905, the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific society with more than 52,000 members organized to raise and maintain the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology. ASA is committed to ensuring physician anesthesiologists evaluate and supervise the medical care of patients before, during and after surgery to provide the highest quality and safest care every patient deserves. 
For more information on the field of anesthesiology, visit the American Society of Anesthesiologists online at To learn more about the role physician anesthesiologists play in ensuring patient safety, visit Like ASA on Facebook and follow ASALifeline on Twitter.

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