ASA, with other members of the Pain Care Coalition (PCC)— the American Academy of Pain Medicine and the American Pain Society— submitted formal comments to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in response to the release of the Commission’s Interim Report. The PCC applauds the comprehensive approach reflected in the Interim Report, and supports the general principles underlying most of its preliminary recommendations.
Established through an Executive Order signed by President Trump in March 2017, the Commission is charged with identifying strategies to address the opioid epidemic. Commission members include Chair, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, former congressman from Rhode Island, Representative Patrick Kennedy, and Professor Bertha Madras, Ph.D. Their Interim Report is a first step in the Commission’s work, as it outlines preliminary recommendations to the President. Another report will be released this fall.
The PCC comments urge the Commission to coordinate its work with the substantial work already accomplished or in process to improve the treatment of pain in America. For example, the efforts already underway to implement the National Pain Strategy and the steps taken to develop a Federal Pain Research Strategy. The comments also address the critical importance of research and public education.
As the country grapples with the consequences of overuse and abuse of opioid medications for both acute and chronic pain, the search for effective new therapies has never been more important. The PCC commends the Commission for recognizing pain research as an area for further examination leading up to the issuance of its final recommendations
Key concepts about improving education across health care professionals highlighted in the PCC letter include, but are not limited to:
• Curricular Improvement in both undergraduate and graduate health professions education. Medical schools in several states, including Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and West Virginia are leading the way, and institutions in other states will surely follow their example.
• Changes to the USMLE licensing tests so that all new practitioners will be required to demonstrate appropriate competencies in pain, controlled substance prescribing and substance abuse prevention.
• Changes to state professional licensure standards that emphasize the importance of these same competencies.
ASA has worked closely with partner organizations and other medical societies to explore solutions to the opioid epidemic. Some key activities include increasing physicians’ use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), working to expand access to naloxone and promoting education of effective, evidence based prescribing, as well as advancing multimodal and multidisciplinary pain management, including insurance coverage of non-opioid therapies. Many of these activities are aligned with the recommendations of the Commission. The Pain Care Coalition member societies stand willing and ready to work with the Commission.