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Successful Take Back Alabama Week Ends with Opioid Summit

Successful Take Back Alabama Week Ends with Opioid Summit

REVISED APRIL 27, 2018 ─ The Medical Association’s Take Back Alabama Week kicked off this week with a press conference at Walgreens in Birmingham on Monday, April 23. Representatives from AmerisourceBergen, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, Pfizer, Prime Therapeutics and Walgreens joined Attorney General Steve Marshall and Birmingham physician Gregory Ayers to announce the installation of 13 new safe medication disposal kiosks in select Walgreens locations in Alabama.

“Once they are in the consumers’ hands, many of these medications are not all used,” Dr. Ayers said during the press conference. “A patient may use only a few pills out of a prescription, and then many of these medications are left over that just sit unused in a medicine cabinet…unsecured in most cases. These medications need to be disposed of safely so they don’t get into the hands of those who don’t need them. These kiosks offer a very safe avenue for disposal.”

The kiosks allow individuals to safely and conveniently dispose of unwanted, unused or expired medications, including controlled substances and over-the-counter medications at no cost. They are available during regular pharmacy hours.

The week ended with Take Back Alabama’s parent program, Smart & Safe Alabama, exhibiting at the Annual Opioid Crisis in Alabama: From Silos to Solutions to further spread the word about the new medication disposal kiosks as well as raising awareness for prescription drug safety.

Check out some of the news coverage, compliments of WIAT:


APRIL 20, 2018 ─ According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 749 Alabama residents died in 2016 due to drug overdose, which includes prescription drug overdose. This number is up from 726 in 2015…and this is why the Medical Association of the State of Alabama created Take Back Alabama Week. In an unprecedented partnership, the Medical Association reached out to Walgreens, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama and Pfizer to form a strategic alliance for education about and safe disposal of prescription medications.

Take Back Alabama Week is April 23-28, and kicks off Monday, April 23, with a media event at Walgreens located at 4700 Highway 280 in Birmingham. The event is the perfect opportunity to spread the word about the availability of safe medication disposal kiosks in 13 Walgreens locations across Alabama. Attorney General Steve Marshall and Birmingham physician Gregory Ayers will join representatives from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and Pfizer to kick off the campaign.

“While Alabama has beaten the national average from 2013 to 2017 in the percentage of reduction in opioid prescriptions, we still lead the nation in the total number of opioid prescriptions on a per capita basis,” said Medical Association Executive Director Mark Jackson. “That’s why joining forces with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Walgreens and Pfizer is so important. We are waging an information campaign to educate Alabamians not only of the dangers of the misuse of opioids and other prescription medications but also that there are alternatives to opioids. It begins with an open and honest conversation with your physician to find the best treatment plan for each patient.”


Visit the following Walgreens locations to safely dispose of your unused medications:

7155 US Highway 431
Albertville, AL 35950

1815 9th Avenue N.
Bessemer, AL 35020

101 Green Springs Highway
Birmingham, AL 35209

4700 Highway 280
Birmingham, AL 35242

9325 Parkway E.
Birmingham, AL 35215

2940 W. Main Street
Dothan, AL 36305

900 Rucker Boulevard
Enterprise, AL 36330

2 Greeno Road S.
Fairhope, AL 36532

1801 Montgomery Highway S.
Hoover, AL 35244

7813 Highway 72 W
Madison, AL 35758

3948 Airport Boulevard
Mobile, AL 36608

6680 Atlanta Highway
Montgomery, AL 36117

2515 Crawford Road
Phenix City, AL 36867

Walgreens at these locations have drop boxes in which residents may safely deposit unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medications…no questions asked. These boxes are locked, and there is no danger of your medications getting into the hands of someone who could accidentally overdose or misuse them.

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Opioid Prescribing Still High and Varies Widely Throughout U.S.

Opioid Prescribing Still High and Varies Widely Throughout U.S.

Opioid prescribing in the United States peaked in 2010 and then decreased each year through 2015, but remains at high levels and varies from county to county in the U.S., according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Six times more opioids per resident were dispensed in 2015 in the highest-prescribing counties than in the lowest-prescribing counties. This wide variation suggests inconsistent prescribing practices among health care providers, and that patients receive different care depending on where they live.

“The amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. is still too high, with too many opioid prescriptions for too many days at too high a dosage,” said Anne Schuchat, M.D., acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Health care providers have an important role in offering safer and more effective pain management while reducing risks of opioid addiction and overdose.”

CDC researchers analyzed changes in annual prescribing measures from 2006 to 2015 and found that while there have been declines in opioids prescribed, more can be done to improve prescribing practices. For example, between 2006 and 2015 opioids prescribed peaked in 2010 at 782 morphine milligram equivalents (MME) per person and decreased to 640 MME in 2015. (MME is the amount of opioids in milligrams, accounting for differences in opioid drug type and strength.)

Daily MME per prescription remained stable from 2006 to 2010 and then decreased 17 percent from 2010 to 2015 (from 58 MME to 48). However, the average days’ supply per prescription increased 33 percent from 13 days in 2006 to almost 18 days in 2015. Opioids prescribed per capita in 2015 was still approximately three times as high as in 1999.

County-level opioid prescribing patterns vary

For this Vital Signs report, CDC analyzed retail prescription data from QuintilesIMS to assess opioid prescribing in the United States from 2006 to 2015, including rates, amounts, dosages, and durations prescribed. CDC examined county-level prescribing patterns for the years 2010 and 2015.

County-level factors associated with higher amounts of opioids prescribed include:

  • A greater percentage of non-Hispanic white residents.
  • A greater prevalence of diabetes and arthritis.
  • Micropolitan areas (non-metro small cities and big towns).
  • Higher unemployment.

“While some variation in opioid prescribing is expected and linked to factors such as the prevalence of painful conditions, differences in these characteristics explain only a fraction of the wide variation in opioid prescribing across the United States,” said Deborah Dowell, M.D., M.P.H., chief medical officer in the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “This variation highlights the need for healthcare providers to consider evidence-based guidance when prescribing opioids.”

Ensuring access to safer, more effective pain treatment

In 2016, CDC published the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide recommendations for the prescribing of opioid pain medication for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. These recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain (pain lasting longer than three months or past the time of normal tissue healing) outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care. The Guideline includes recommendations such as:

  • Use opioids only when benefits are likely to outweigh risks.
  • Start with the lowest effective dose of immediate-release opioids.
  • Reassess benefits and risks when considering dose increases.

Health care providers should also use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which help identify patients at risk of addiction or overdose.

The Guideline can also be used by health systems, states, and insurers to help ensure appropriate prescribing and improve care for all people. Tools and resources are available to help providers and patients discuss the risks and benefits of opioid therapy for chronic pain to improve the safety and effectiveness of pain treatment and to reduce the risks associated with long-term opioid therapy, including opioid use disorder, overdose, and death. For more information about preventing opioid overdose:

Vital Signs is a CDC report that typically appears on the first Tuesday of the month as part of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report provides the latest data and information on key health indicators, such as cancer prevention, obesity, tobacco use, motor vehicle injury prevention, prescription drug overdose, HIV/AIDS, alcohol use, health care-associated infections, cardiovascular health, teen pregnancy, and food safety.

For information about the Medical Association’s prescription drug abuse awareness program, visit Smart & Safe.

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STUDY: Opioid Abuse Drops When Doctors Check Patients’ Drug History

STUDY: Opioid Abuse Drops When Doctors Check Patients’ Drug History

ITHACA, N.Y. – There’s a simple way to reduce the opioid epidemic gripping the country, according to new Cornell University research: Make doctors check their patients’ previous prescriptions.

The most significant response to the opioid epidemic comes from state governments. Nearly every state now has a database that tracks every prescription for opioids like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin. Using these databases, doctors and pharmacists can retrieve a patient’s history to decide whether they are an opioid abuser before prescribing them drugs.

Such databases reduce opioid abuse among Medicare recipients – but only when laws require doctors to consult them, according to a Cornell health care economist and her colleague. Their study refutes previous research suggesting the databases have no effect on opioid abuse. The paper is forthcoming in the American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

“The main issue is getting providers to change their prescribing behavior. The majority of opioids that people abuse start in the medical system as a legitimate prescription,” said co-author Colleen Carey, assistant professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology. Her co-author is Thomas Buchmueller of the University of Michigan.

States that implemented a “must access” database saw a decline in the number of Medicare recipients who got more than a seven-months’ supply in a six-month period. And there was a decrease in those who filled a prescription before the previous prescription’s supply had been used.

“Doctor shopping” also dropped. Medicare opioid users who got prescriptions from five or more doctors – a common marker for “doctor shopping” – fell by 8 percent; the number of those who got opioids from five or more pharmacies declined by more than 15 percent.

On the flip side, Medicare patients appeared to evade the new regulations by traveling to a less-regulated state.

Although the study looked only at Medicare recipients, the findings are likely to translate to the general population, the researchers said. The effects were especially large for low-income disabled users and for those who obtain opioid prescriptions from a high number of doctors; both groups have the highest rates of misuse and abuse, Carey said.

The strongest effects were in states with the strictest laws, such as New York, which require doctors to check the opioid history of “every patient, every time.” But even states with laws requiring access only under certain circumstances reduced doctor shopping.

Until recently Medicare has had very few legislative tools to curtail the epidemic. And insurance companies have little incentive, because opioids are relatively cheap, costing about $1.60 per day in the study’s sample. And opioids don’t hit Medicare insurers in the bottom line, making up only 3 percent of their total drug costs, Carey said.

For information about the Medical Association prescription drug abuse awareness program, visit Smart & Safe.

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Medical Association Joins AMA for Release of Opioid Education and Resource Toolbox

Medical Association Joins AMA for Release of Opioid Education and Resource Toolbox

BIRMINGHAM – The Medical Association and the American Medical Association partnered in the development and release of a toolbox of data, education and other resources to aid physicians in their continued fight against Alabama’s epidemic of prescription drug misuse, overdose and death. The toolbox was released in a press conference during the Association’s November Opioid Prescribing Education conference in Birmingham.

This toolbox is part of the Medical Association’s continuing efforts – legislative and other – to reverse this epidemic, and Alabama is one of two states participating in this pilot program.

“Although Alabama is no longer the top prescriber of opioids in the country, we still have a very long way to go as far as educating our physicians and other prescribers how to properly handle the prescription of opioid pain medication and those patients that require that medication,” said Medical Association Executive Director Mark Jackson. “This toolbox will help physicians not only educate patients about pain, but also provide resources for overdose prevention and treatment.”

Jackson said he hopes Alabama’s physicians will find the toolbox useful and help strengthen their physician-patient relationships as they continue to discuss pain-related issues with their patients.

“This toolbox contains the types of data and resources that physicians can rely on to help improve their practices for their patients,” said Gerald Harmon, M.D., chair-elect of the American Medical Association Board of Trustees, who also spoke at the press conference. “We recognize that we have much more to accomplish, but physicians in Alabama and across the nation already have made important strides to reverse the nation’s opioid epidemic, and using these resources will help physicians continue that progress.”

Alabama, along with Rhode Island, are the only two states in this grant. These states were chosen due to many factors, including high rates of opioid-related harm as well as diverse demographic, socioeconomic, geographic and other characteristics. The characteristics offer excellent opportunities to study the implementation of the toolbox, refine it, and potentially use it as a model for other states that want to undertake similar efforts.

The toolbox can be viewed online at

Funding for this initiative was made possible (in part) by Providers’ Clinical Support System for Opioid Therapies (grant no. 5H79TI025595) from SAMHSA. The views expressed in written conference materials or publications and by speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services; nor does mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Alabama Physicians Partner with the AMA to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Alabama Physicians Partner with the AMA to Combat Opioid Epidemic

Pilot Program Designed to Reduce Prescription Opioid Misuse and Heroin Use

MONTGOMERY | Aug. 10, 2016 – The Medical Association of the State of Alabama and the American Medical Association announced today a partnership to develop and distribute a statewide educational toolbox designed to help reverse the state’s opioid epidemic. Alabama and Rhode Island are the first two states partnering in this pilot program with the AMA.

“To bring a halt to this devastating opioid epidemic, physicians must remain committed to leading this fight – to enhancing their education and to using all tools at their disposal to help treat patients with pain and opioid use disorders as well as ensuring comprehensive treatment with non-pharmacologic therapies when appropriate,” said Patrice A. Harris, M.D., the chair of the AMA Board of Trustees and the chair of the AMA’s Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse.

In 2013, the Medical Association of the State of Alabama helped pass legislation to reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion. That legislation resulted in Alabama having the largest decrease in the Southeast – the third-largest in the nation regarding the use of the most highly addictive prescription drugs.

“Alabama’s physicians recognize we have a serious prescription drug problem in our state,” said Medical Association President David Herrick, M.D., of Montgomery. “We have made great strides in providing better education on the dangers of prescription drug abuse to our fellow physicians and to our patients through our Smart & Safe drug abuse awareness campaign. But there is much more work to be done. Partnering with the American Medical Association will help us to bring even more awareness as we fight Alabama’s prescription drug abuse epidemic together.”

The pilot program will build a toolbox – available online and in print – that incorporates the best information from the AMA, the Medical Association and Alabama’s health officials. It will be provided to physicians and other health care professionals with key data, valuable resources, and practice-specific recommendations they need to enhance their decision-making when caring for patients suffering from chronic or acute pain and opioid use disorders, as well as for patients needing overdose prevention education.

The toolbox will be released in September, and the Medical Association and the AMA and will work together to distribute it throughout Alabama.

The AMA was awarded funding through the Prescriber Clinical Support System for Opioid Therapies, funded by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and administered by the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

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