U.S. Pain’s Director of State Advocacy and Alliance Development Shaina Smith was among the speakers at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization’s (BIO) Patient and Health Advocacy Summit held Oct. 25 and 26 in Washington, D.C. The annual event brings together patient advocacy organizations, academia, regulators, biotechnology industry, and other stakeholders to discuss timely policy issues and share best practices. This year, attendees were treated to a surprise appearance from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

Attendees engaged in conversations on a range of topics, including the Trump Administration’s blueprint on drug pricing and a deep dive into the opioid epidemic’s impact on people with opioid use disorder and chronic pain populations. Smith was one of the five panelists to weigh in on this sensitive topic, sharing with attendees true stories of individuals who are forced to decide between medication adherence, purchasing substances on the streets, facing financial hardships, or even suicide.

“My intent was to share the other side of opioid reform taking place in this country, the unintended consequences well-intended legislation and policies have caused for children and adults living with the complex condition of chronic pain, and how part of the problem includes a lack of access to integrative therapy options,” Smith explains. “I hope those in the room recognized that both people with legitimate chronic pain and opioid use disorder are underserved and undertreated; I encouraged audience members to get involved by holding conversations with lawmakers and insurance companies.”

Smith says the visit later in the day from Secretary Azar was a fun surprise.“We were just wrapping up a panel discussion on ensuring patient access and affordability, so it was appropriate timing for Secretary Azar to make an appearance following the president’s speech and summit dialogue,” says Smith. “The secretary took the opportunity to address industry, more so their concerns that the president’s latest drug pricing proposal would intrude innovative medicines from coming to market.”

The drug pricing announcement from the administration included the allowing of Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will test a new system for setting pricing for medications under the Medicare Part B program. Medicare would also pay fees to doctors that are more aligned with what other countries are paying to providers for services.

To view the talk given by Sec. Azar, please use the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Remarks by President Trump on prescription drug prices can be read here.