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From left, Steinberg and Herman.

The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IPRCC), the nation’s highest-level pain policy committee, convened on the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Nov. 16 for its second meeting of 2018. U.S. Pain Foundation has two appointees on this prestigious committee: Cindy Steinberg, national director of policy and advocacy, and Gwenn Herman, clinical director of Pain Connection.

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According to new national data, an estimated 50 million or 20.4 percent of U.S. adults have chronic pain. Meanwhile, 19.6 million or 8 percent have high-impact chronic pain. The study was reported in the Sep. 14 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication.

“This recent epidemiological study is incredibly important, because it provides the most precise data we have to date on the prevalence of chronic pain and high-impact chronic pain in the U.S. adult population,” says Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain Foundation’s national director of policy and advocacy.

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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.

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Policymakers across both aisles have had mixed viewpoints when it comes to cultivating cannabis, not in the literal sense, but as it relates to bills that would permit individuals to access medical cannabis. Several states, however, are expanding or considering expanding their medical cannabis programs, including Illinois, New York, and New Jersey. In addition, some federal institutions have taken steps to improve access: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Congress.

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The Senate and House have agreed to a compromise opioid bill HR 6, the SUPPORT Act, which has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate this week and be signed into law by the President. This is the second big piece of legislation Congress has created to address the opioid crisis, with a total of 660 pages.

“The bill does include a number of positive provisions from a pain management perspective, but also continues a troubling pattern in recent legislation of penalizing the use of opioids for legitimate pain management,” said Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain National Director of Policy and Advocacy.

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The Senate and House have agreed to a compromise opioid bill HR 6, the SUPPORT Act, that has passed the House and is expected to pass the Senate this week and be signed into law by the President. This is the second big piece of legislation Congress has created to address the opioid crisis, with a total of 660 pages.

“The bill does include a number of positive provisions from a pain management perspective, but also continues a troubling pattern in recent legislation of penalizing the use of opioids for legitimate pain management,” said Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain National Director of Policy and Advocacy.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Pain Management Best Practices Task Force convened its second public meeting on Sept. 25 and 26 in Washington, DC.

“The main purpose of the meeting was for the three task force subcommittees to present a high-level summary of their recommendations arrived at through working sessions held every week since the end of May,” says Cindy Steinberg, a task force member and U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy. “Other goals were to hear input from high-level officials representing stakeholder government institutions, including HHS, Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the Department of Defense. The task force also heard from the U.S. Surgeon General, patients living with chronic pain, and members of the public.”

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Several weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed HR 6, or the “SUPPORT Patients and Communities Act.” Many provisions of HR 6, if they remain in a compromise version of the bill, could be detrimental to pain patients. These provisions include:

  • Discouraging use of opioids post-surgery, even for major procedures
  • State reports on daily MME on covered individuals
  • Increased surveillance in hospitals and ERs on number of opioid prescriptions written
  • Medicare to investigate high-volume prescribers & take “corrective action” against “over-prescribers”
  • Medicare survey of patients may not include questions about how pain was managed unless they also include risks of opioid use
  • Restricting certain individuals in Medicaid to limited providers and pharmacies

U.S. Pain Foundation is concerned these provisions would negatively impact people living with pain, particularly those who rely on opioids to manage their severe daily pain. If you are concerned, we ask you to reach out to your federal representatives and tell them.

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Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, was one of the numerous people with pain to speak at the the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s “Patient-Focused Drug Development Public Meeting on Chronic Pain” on July 9. The event drew an at-capacity audience in the auditorium, on the phones, and through a web portal. Dr. Sharon Hertz, Director of the FDA’s Division of Anesthesia, explained to the crowd that she and her colleagues were there to better understand the impact of chronic pain, patient perspectives on current treatment regimens, and the challenges or barriers patients face in accessing treatment.

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In April at the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit and in a recent Journal of American Medical Association article, Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced a bold new initiative to advance addiction and pain research called “Helping to End Addiction Long-term,” or the HEAL Initiative. Congress has added $500 million to NIH’s budget to pay for this initiative.

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