The opioid crisis continues to spiral. Today, Americans are more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose (1 in 96 odds) than a car crash (1 in 103 odds) (asamonitor.pub/3xncIyB). Crafting solutions calibrated to truly meet the severity of the crisis isn’t easy. But improvement is possible. To achieve real change, stakeholders must work together.
As established experts in pain medicine, anesthesiologists are leading the way, implementing best practices to better manage pain and reduce opioid consumption. ASA’s Industry Supporter – Baudax Bio, Edwards Lifesciences, Fresenius Kabi, Heron Therapeutics, Masimo, Medtronic, and Merck – aid our efforts by providing unrestricted funding that enables us to educate, increase awareness, and advocate. The efforts that drive us toward our shared goals, preventing opioid misuse and overdose deaths, are costly. From research to data review to assembling experts and developing enduring educational materials, financial resources are needed to support the society’s efforts. And the unrestricted funding our corporate partners contribute helps us advance more robust responses. Because the funds are unrestricted, the work is, importantly, free of influence.
“There’s no denying that the scale and gravity of the opioid crisis calls for an all-hands-on-deck response. Fortunately, the goals of ASA are shared by lawmakers, peers, other specialty societies, the public, and industry.”
What exactly is ASA doing to help anesthesiologists and patients fight the opioid epidemic?
Spearheading best practices through education
With the help of unrestricted funds from industry, ASA is working to increase our understanding of the impact of the opioid crisis on patients and educate toward solutions that work. Developing and maintaining quality registries and monitoring quality outcome metrics to ensure therapies are understood sooner and better are essential, as is the production of sound educational products and enduring educational materials designed to keep anesthesiologists, peers, and patients informed and up to date. It’s also imperative that the strategies employed to address the opioid crisis do not come at a cost to patients’ access to safe and effective pain treatments.
To that end, ASA hosted a Pain Summit that brought together 14 medical specialty organizations in 2021 and again in 2022. Coming out of these paired events, the consortium agreed on a set of principles designed to reduce opioid use and better address the perioperative treatment of acute pain in complex surgical patients as well as the need to better understand barriers to implementation. The 2021 consensus statement, published in Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, noted the need for preoperative evaluation of medical and psychological conditions and potential substance use disorders; a focus on multimodal analgesia, including nonpharmacologic interventions; the use of validated pain assessment tools to guide and adjust treatment; and more. Importantly, a publication from the second summit will be released soon, and multi-society pain resources from the collaboration will be developed and shared with providers, the public, and patients to enhance education around safe and effective perioperative pain care.
Working together to drive awareness
ASA also advances evidence-based solutions through partnerships with other medical organizations with the help of unrestricted funds.
Surgical and other acute care settings present a unique opportunity to ensure patients receive the appropriate care and education regarding opioids. Providing educational resources such as toolkits is one way the society strives to increase awareness. For example, working with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), we developed the Pain Alleviation Toolkit to increase awareness of safe and effective strategies for the alleviation of postoperative pain and optimal opioid stewardship. The toolkit provides resources for clinicians and patients aimed at helping patients get as comfortable as possible, as safely as possible.
ASA is also increasing awareness of how to identify and react to instances of opioid overdose using opioid reversal agents, such as naloxone, with our REVIVEme initiative, which is aimed at professionals and the public.
Working together to shape policy
ASA plays an essential role in educating members of Congress and federal agencies about the role anesthesiologists play in both addressing the opioid crisis and providing care for acute and chronic patients. We recognize that collaboration between lawmakers, anesthesiologists, and other medical specialists is vital to prevent opioid misuse and abuse.
The society’s extensive advocacy efforts are centered on increasing patient access to multimodal and multidisciplinary pain management, ensuring insurance coverage of non-opioid therapies, encouraging safe storage and disposal of opioids, increasing pain research, developing non-opioid treatments, and more. We’ve even worked with the HHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force on recommendations around acute and chronic pain management, which included direction for professional societies to develop tools and guidelines on pain and was the ultimate catalyst for ASA to convene the pain summits with our specialty society partners.
Shared goals create strong partnerships
There’s no denying that the scale and gravity of the opioid crisis calls for an all-hands-on-deck response. Fortunately, the goals of ASA are shared by lawmakers, peers, other specialty societies, the public, and industry. Working together, ASA and other stakeholders are enhancing education to promote a deeper understanding of what is and isn’t working; spreading awareness so physicians, lawmakers, and the public understand the crisis and potential solutions; and advocating for fair and equitable strategies to prevent opioid use disorder and related deaths. The unrestricted financial support the society receives from ASA’s Industry Supporters helps us get further and faster to a pathway in our work to address this challenging issue.