Opportunities for people with pain to have their voices heard by federal officials are rare. That’s why it’s so important for the public to take advantage of two major opportunities to comment on the state of pain care at the highest levels of the U.S. government: the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Opportunity #1: HHS Interagency Pain Management Best Practices Task Force
Deadline: June 15
How to take action: Submit comments here

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From left, Palanker, Lemiska, and Steinberg.

On May 30 and 31, U.S. Pain National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in the inaugural meeting of the Pain Management Best Practices Intra-Agency Task Force. The task force is comprised of 28 experts chosen by the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Steinberg is the only patient representative who was selected as a member.

The task force was established to propose updates to best practices and issue recommendations that address gaps or inconsistencies for managing chronic and acute pain. HHS oversees all federal health agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

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This is an extremely busy time on Capitol Hill for legislation aimed at reducing opioid abuse and addiction. No less than four key committees with jurisdiction over health policy- Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means are hard at work on comprehensive new opioid legislation with a goal of completing efforts before Memorial Day and then sending legislation to the floor of each chamber in June.

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Two U.S. Pain Foundation staff members–Cindy Steinberg, national director of Policy and Advocacy, and Gwenn Herman, LCSW, DCSW, clinical director of Pain Connection–have been nominated to serve on influential committees within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Steinberg was announced May 1 as one of 28 members appointed to the newly established Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force. Steinberg is the only representative selected from a patient organization. The task force, created as part of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, aims to outline best practices and address gaps and inconsistencies in the management of acute and chronic pain.

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The Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force is a new, high-level federal think-tank consisting of 28 appointees, including Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy for U.S. Pain Foundation.

Overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the task force has been charged with the following:

Propose updates to pain management best practices

  • Issue recommendations that address gaps or inconsistencies for managing chronic and acute pain
  • Provide the public with an opportunity to comment on any proposed updates and recommendations
  • Develop a strategy for disseminating such proposed updates and recommendations to relevant Federal agencies and general public
  • Provide expert advice and recommendations for pain management and prescribing pain medication

Take Action: Submit Comments from the Patient Perspective

As part of its inaugural meeting on May 30 and 31, the task force is accepting comments in person, via webcast, and online. Written comments can be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking Portal and are due by May 25.

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A record 540 U.S. Pain members have sent 2,010 letters to their representatives through an online campaign to support the Opioids and STOP Pain Initiative Act. The bill would allocate $5 billion over 5 years toward developing new treatments for both chronic pain and substance use disorders. Pain has traditionally been grossly underfunded relative to its enormous impact.

“This is a very promising piece of pain legislation,” says Cindy Steinberg, national director of Policy and Advocacy. “The persistent underfunding of pain research relative to its burden means that we have very few effective and safe options of treating chronic pain.”

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U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy, Cindy Steinberg, is constantly fighting behind-the-scenes for improvements in pain care. One recent example: last week she and the Academy of Integrative Pain Management issued two joint letters–one to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance and another to the House Ways and Means Committee–recommending changes in CMS coverage and funding for innovative treatment approaches.

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Patient advocates have been heartened to see more states making progress in allowing access to medical cannabis for chronic conditions like pain. In New Jersey, chronic pain was recently added to the list of qualifying conditions for chronic pain. Meanwhile, in West Virginia, passed a bill to increase the number of licenses available for growers and dispensaries. (Unfortunately, the bill adds restrictions on physicians, which may discourage them from certifying patients.) In Hawaii, lawmakers are looking to establish a medical cannabis insurance reimbursement working group to address the possibility of insurance coverage for medical cannabis.

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Pain advocates are encouraged to ask Congress to support Opioids and STOP Pain Initiative Act, which was introduced in December, through an easy online engagement campaign.

HR4733/S2260 proposes to expand, intensify, and coordinate research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) with respect to the understanding of pain and the development of safer and more effective pain treatments. It also will help fund the development of improved options for medication-assisted treatment and opioid overdose reversal

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Steinberg testifies in December.

Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain’s national director of policy and advocacy, testified twice at the Massachusetts State House in recent weeks on important pain policy legislation. On Dec. 19, she testified in support of a bill to ensure pain is properly assessed and managed in all health care settings. On Jan. 16, she expressed concern over some aspects of a bill that may go too far in restricting pain medications.

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