A recent and disturbing policy shiftby the US Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) "may result in a 'chillingeffect' on effective pain care," theAmerican Pharmacists Association(APhA) has charged. In testimonybefore the House Subcommittee onRegulatory Affairs, an APhA officialsaid that, whereas curbing illicit traffickingof prescription drugs is animportant goal, "it is imperative thatwe balance the need to regulate the'bad actors' with the need to addressthe health care needs of patients whohave legitimate medical conditionsthat require access to prescription painmedications."
One specific example of the DEA's"going one step too far" in this regardis the agency's recent shift away from abalanced approach to reducing diversionwhile promoting pain management,the representative from theAPhA told Congress. Under the DEA'snew interim policy, a single factor—such as dispensing controlled substancesto a large number of patients—may indicate that a pharmacist orother health care professional isinvolved in diversion or abuse. Anincreased fear of DEA prosecution, theAPhA official warned, "will have a'chilling effect' on the prescribing anddispensing of medically necessary controlledsubstances."
The APhA official also voiced concernover congressional efforts to legislateOxyContin and other abuse-pronedrugs off the market, charging that thisaction would undermine the FDA andinterfere with the treatment ofpatients. In a statement to the subcommittee,the APhA representativewarned that "using the legislativeprocess to set clinical policy circumventsthe thoughtful, scientific-baseddialogue that supports the FDA's decisions." What may appear to be a simpledecision to a legislator "is, to [clinicians],an intrusion on their ability toprovide their patients necessary andappropriate care," the representativefrom the association said.
Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.