Being a pain warrior means fighting for positive change. Right now, there are two major opportunities to comment on the state of pain care in America 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 – second meeting
Deadline: Sept. 17
How to take action: Submit comments here
The late summer has brought the heat to Oregon after residents caught wind of a proposed change to Medicaid that would force patients with chronic pain to taper off opioid medications within one year beginning in 2020. While many states have enacted tougher restrictions on pain medications in response to the opioid crisis, none have gone so far as to completely eliminate the use of opioids by people with chronic pain who show no signs of misuse.
The Massachusetts legislature passed a landmark opioid bill that includes help for people with pain. The bill passed at a quarter to midnight on July 31, 15 minutes before the end of the 2017-2018 formal session; the Governor signed the bill into law the following week. U.S. Pain’s National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg, who also serves as Policy Council Chair of the Massachusetts Pain Initiative, worked closely behind the scenes to ensure the legislation would do as much to improve pain management as it would to ameliorate the opioid crisis.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”