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National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg will speak at a Sept. 20 public meeting at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS). At this meeting, CMS is slated to present its Action Plan to address the opioid crisis and pain management, called for in Section 6032 of the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act passed by Congress in 2018.

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Efforts to disseminate and begin implementing recommendations from the new report from the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force (PMTF), released in May, are underway.

Most notably, according to a June 3 report from Fox News, Sen. Lamar Alexander—chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee—said that he plans to hold a hearing before the committee that will focus on the task force’s findings. The pain community can take part in an action campaign to encourage a hearing by clicking here.

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The new report on pain management, mandated by Congress and finalized on May 30, is an important milestone for people with pain. The report emphasizes the need for access to affordable, multidisciplinary care, and urges an individualized approach to pain management–instead of broad one-size-fits-all limits and policies.

But how do we move it forward from a piece of paper to actual change?

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Golden, left, and Steinberg.

On May 9 and 10, the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force–an advisory group convened by Congress and overseen by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)–held its last public meeting to finalize a report on improving pain care in America. The task force, comprised of 29 members, includes Cindy Steinberg, U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy, the only patient and patient advocacy representative.

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An incredible 6,000 groups and individuals stepped up to give feedback on the draft report from the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force during the comment period that ended April 1. Among the groups was a coalition of pain-patient related organizations, including U.S. Pain Foundation, which submitted a united letter outlining their feedback.

On May 9 and 10, the task force will hold its last public meeting to vote on the final version of the report and discuss plans to disseminate it. The meeting will run from 10 am to 5:30 pm EST Thursday and from 9 am to 12 pm EST on Friday in Washington, D.C.

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Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reacted to the unintended harm to people living with chronic pain as a result of policy measures intended to ameliorate the opioid crisis.

On April 9, the FDA issued a Safety Announcement citing “serious harm,” including “withdrawal symptoms, uncontrolled pain, psychological distress and suicide” as a result of sudden discontinuation or rapid dose decreases in opioid pain medication. The FDA will now require changes to the prescribing information for health care professionals that will provide guidance on how to safely reduce or taper patients off opioid medications. The agency states that there is no standard opioid tapering schedule; rather, a schedule must be tailored to each patient’s unique situation considering a variety of factors, including the type of pain the patient has.

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The 90-day public comment period for the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force’s (PMTF) draft report came to a close April 1, with more than 6,000 individuals and organizations submitting feedback.

Among those to comment was the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force (CPATF), a coalition of pain patient-related nonprofits, including U.S. Pain Foundation, which submitted a 25-page joint letter. In addition to U.S. Pain Foundation, the CPATF letter was signed by the Center for Practical Bioethics; CHAMP (Coalition For Headache And Migraine Patients); Chronic Pain Research Alliance; For Grace: Women In Pain; Global Healthy Living Foundation; Headache and Migraine Policy Forum; International Pain Foundation; Interstitial Cystitis Association; RSDSA (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association); and The Pain Community.

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Last week, the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force (CPATF)–a coalition of pain patient-related nonprofits, including U.S. Pain Foundation–submitted a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar regarding the draft report on pain released by the HHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force.

The CPATF also plans to submit a longer letter to the federal docket with more specific feedback by April 1.

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In late December, a high-ranking federal task force released a draft report with recommendations for improving the management of chronic and acute pain nationwide. The landmark report will be finalized and submitted to Congress at the end of May. The pain community is being asked to give feedback on the report by April 1–less than a month away.

“It is vital that people with pain weigh in,” says Cindy Steinberg, National Director of Policy and Advocacy, who was the only patient and patient advocacy representative on the task force. “This report could change people with pain’s lives for the better. It promotes a multidisciplinary, multimodal approach to pain care and addresses barriers to accessing effective treatment. It says that treatment decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis that considers the unique situation of each patient. It addresses the stigma around chronic pain and lack of public, provider and patient education on pain management. It provides a comprehensive view of the gaps in pain care in the United States today and detailed recommendations on how to ameliorate them.”

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Even though the draft report from the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force is vitally important, it’s understandable that people with pain may not have the time or energy for reading a 91-page report. With that in mind, we have pulled together some excerpts from the report to help the pain community understand its key tenets.

To read the full report or learn more about how to submit comment, click here.

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