Research and education are key to addressing the complexities of the opioid epidemic. “On the research side, it goes everywhere from understanding pain better as a neurological phenomenon to finding some non-addictive strategies for addressing pain more effectively,” said Lucinda Maine Ph.D., executive vice president and CEO, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. “Across the board there’s just a real lack of sufficient education for clinicians and patients and everybody else in the ecosystem at this point in time.” Maine joined experts for moderated panel discussions at Research!America’s National Health Research Forum on September 7 in Washington, D.C.
“This is touching too many families for us to be in denial, I think we have a turning point,” former Congressman Patrick Kennedy said, but added that there is a lack of interest among medical professions to provide medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.
Panelists agreed medical education must improve to ensure providers address opioid addiction based on the best available research. "We’re the only state in the country where you can’t graduate from medical school, dental school, nursing school or pharmacy school without taking and passing a course in opioid therapy and pain management," said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
Anne Schuchat, M.D., principal deputy director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the CDC issued guidelines for prescribing for chronic pain “that was really about think twice before you start one of these medicines. We’ve had a huge response to the guideline. Medical schools, residency training, nursing schools, pharmacy schools” have adopted them into their core curriculum.
In his remarks, Scott Gottlieb, M.D., commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the agency is exploring abuse-deterrent drug formulations, medically-assisted therapies and non-addictive pain products. “In order to reduce addiction, we need to reduce exposure. And the way we’re going to do that is to make sure fewer prescriptions are written.”
Prevention strategies are necessary to curb the rate of addiction, speakers noted. “The balance between prevention and intervention is a key part of both public and medical policy, and unfortunately the U.S. has not been the most active country in having enough preventive programs,” said Mikael Dolsten, M.D., president of worldwide research & development, Pfizer.
“If you want to reduce illness, it’s better not to have it happen in the first place,” said Francis Collins, M.D., director, National Institutes of Health. William N. Hait, M.D., , global head, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, noted that prevention is critical in order to make significant progress in reducing disease prevalence. The program featured panel discussions with top leaders in government, industry, patient advocacy and academia.
For more on the event, visit www.researchamerica.org/forum.