In Tampa Tribune, NACDS, U.S. Pain Foundation Urge Collaboration for Benefit of Patients


The joint op-ed emphasizes the importance of finding common ground to address prescription drug abuse and patient access.


Arlington, Va. The Tampa Tribune published a joint op-ed on May 18 by U.S. Pain Foundation President Paul Gileno and National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) President and CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE emphasizing the need for all stakeholders — including patient advocates and pharmacy – to work together to help find solutions to the complex problems of prescription drug abuse and patient access.

NACDS and the U.S. Pain Foundation submitted the op-ed amid extensive media attention to these issues across the state of Florida. Both groups believe that often the increased scrutiny on the problem of abuse and access only tells part of the story, thus limiting complete understanding of the issues and their potential solutions.

The op-ed, titled “Finger pointing won’t help on pain medication abuse or access,” cites the need of all stakeholders coming together, even amidst differing views on the problem.

“The organizations that we represent do not share identical thoughts. Yet we recognize that dialogue and true collaboration are necessary to achieve results that will benefit families, communities and patients alike,” Anderson and Gileno wrote in the op-ed.

Both NACDS and the U.S. Pain Foundation have been highly engaged on solutions-oriented approaches to address drug abuse and access.

NACDS has developed an online continuing education course designed to educate pharmacists about compliance with Drug Enforcement Administration standards while protecting legitimate patient access. Meanwhile, NACDS continues to work with patient advocates to help raise awareness of those who legitimately and desperately need prescription pain medications.

In addition, the U.S. Pain Foundation advocates for patients living with pain, serving as a source of hope and support for them and their caregivers. The program the INvisible Project validates suffering while highlighting personal strength, character and courage. For those who feel alone or ashamed, it offers hope and inspiration. The ultimate purpose is to educate society about the toll pain has on an individual while also empowering those who live with pain and illness. It is to make sure those with pain obtain validation, receive proper care, become empowered and find a way to live a meaningful life.

The complete op-ed follows:

To hear of one family devastated by prescription drug abuse is to receive motivation to tackle the problem. Yet to hear a story of a suffering patient who cannot receive a needed pain medication serves as equal motivation to protect access. Both of these scenarios need to be addressed — simultaneously.

Unfortunately, the complex and intertwined issues of prescription drug abuse and access are not receiving the comprehensive approach that they deserve and require.

The reality is this: These issues require the insights and expertise of health authorities, law enforcement, patient advocates, prescribers, pharmacists and other stakeholders alike. All parties will not agree on every aspect of these topics, but their diverse perspectives are needed to create workable solutions. Those perspectives are not being leveraged today.

The organizations that we represent do not share identical thoughts. Yet we recognize that dialogue and true collaboration are necessary to achieve results that will benefit families, communities and patients alike. One of the many issues on which we agree is that the current culture of enforcement has not taken into sufficient consideration the needs of pain patients. For example, throughout the regulatory debate that led to new restrictions on certain pain medications, our organizations made the case that doing so would impact patients in real need of these medications to help them manage their pain.

That is just one example of the events that have shaped the current operating environment. Another example is the intense focus that has been brought on pharmacists and their decisions of whether to fill a prescription for pain medication.

Pharmacists are expected to not simply fill every prescription that is presented, but rather to help determine whether a prescription is valid and appropriate. The Drug Enforcement Administration mandates that pharmacists have a “corresponding responsibility” to do just that. This responsibility “corresponds” to the similar responsibility held by the prescriber. As a result of these regulations, pharmacists — like other practitioners — are expected to look out for “red flags” that may indicate that controlled substances are not being obtained for legitimate purposes. Unfortunately, this responsibility is not fully understood by most observers, and enforcement officials throughout the country are not applying these standards consistently.

The pharmacy counter has become the focus of this entire debate, because that is where the patient ultimately is receiving either a “yes” or a “no” as to whether the prescription will be filled. However, pursuing a zero tolerance for drug abuse and a 100-percent commitment to patient care — at the same time — requires collaboration that reaches far beyond that interaction between a patient and a pharmacist.

Our organizations are willing to contribute to that partnership. But true partnership requires still more collaboration from other parties.

In Congress, The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 (S. 482 and H.R. 471) would establish a framework to benefit from collaboration between government agencies and patient and provider groups. Without a concerted effort to bring enforcement and health care together to find a workable solution, problems related to drug abuse and access will fester.

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