Center for effective regulatory policy and safe access protects patients experiencing pain.
A longtime friend of mine, Stephen Ziegler, PhD, JD, director and founder of the Center for Effective Regulatory Policy and Safe Access (CERPSA), has initiated a nonprofit organization that caught my interest.
Ziegler, along with the center’s board members, launched this endeavor of protecting patients with pain. I had the pleasure of interviewing him, and here is an edited transcript of that interview.
Q: What is CERPSA, and how long has it existed?
A: We are a nonpartisan, science-based policy research organization that focuses on [reducing] human pain and suffering by improving the regulation of and safe access to palliative medicines and treatments through research, education, and outreach. Our mission is to help governments and communities create and maintain effective drug control policies so that they ensure safe access [and] prevent abuse and intrusion of the illicit market.
Although CERPSA was formed on November 1, 2019, I have been developing the idea for the past several years, originally envisioning it as an endowed chair position at a university that would enable my efforts and those at the center to focus exclusively on our mission. But creating an endowed chair position at a university requires a significant donation up front, and until that occurs, creating a nonprofit seemed to be the quickest way forward to address the opioid and pain crisis.
Q: What made you interested in starting a non-profit like CERPSA?
A: A common thread throughout my professional career has been the reduction of unnecessary human suffering.
My work as a scientist started out by focusing on the regulatory barriers to pain and symptom management for those facing terminal diseases, but while in graduate school, I expanded my focus to include chronic, noncancer pain. After almost 2 decades of research in the pain space, I saw a need that an endowed chair/nonprofit could fill by doing something governments fail to do: conducting ex post evaluations of drug control policies to see if they work and how they can be improved. Surprisingly, governments rarely, if ever, evaluate the effectiveness of the policies they create, whether those policies are in the form of laws, rules, or regulations. There are good public health reasons to control drugs, whether we are dealing with antibiotics or prescription opioids. The answer is not to eliminate regulation but, rather, improve it dramatically so that it does a better job of preventing abuse and fulfilling the original purpose of palliative medicines: the reduction
of human suffering.
Q: What is the ultimate goal in starting CERPSA?
A: The elimination of unnecessary suffering caused by well-intentioned but ineffective drug control policies. Ultimately, my vision is a world where palliative medicines and treatments that reduce human pain and suffering, whether in the form of prescription opioids or even medical cannabis [where legal], are safe, and the government policies controlling them are effective in ensuring access, preventing abuse, and improving lives.
Q: How do you plan on being funded, and how can pharmacists support the cause?
A: As a nonprofit, we rely on donations and grants to fund our mission. Funding remains one of the most significant challenges facing nonprofits, but now more than ever, our nation and world need to improve the way we control drugs. Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. CERPSA welcomes the challenge to pave a new and compassionate way forward in drug control that reduces suffering and improves lives. Every contribution, no matter the amount, helps us get closer to achieving our goals. After all, if [college student Carson King] can raise $3 million to fill his beer refrigerator, why not raise $3 million to support an innovative, science-based approach to reducing pain and overdose by helping governments and communities create effective drug control policies?
As an advocate for patients in pain, I know we must confront the issue of drug diversion. I think that virtually every drug diversion incident can be a negative
blow to those who need pain medication. CERPSA can help with both diversion and the right of patients to receive medications when needed.