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Conquering Pain & Fighting Addiction: Policy Imperatives to Combat a Growing Health Crisis

On April 8, 2013, leaders from science, medicine, government and the advocacy community gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss the growing public health issues of chronic pain and prescription drug abuse. The event began with an introduction from Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, who released the results of a new public opinion poll on pain and spoke about the critical role for research in addressing this epidemic. (For more information on the poll, read our press release or download the poll slides.)

This presentation was followed by a panel moderated by Health Affairs Editor-in-Chief Susan Dentzer. The panelists included The Honorable Asa Hutchinson, former congressman and DEA administrator; Douglas Throckmorton, MD, deputy director for regulatory programs,Center for Drug Evaluation & Research, Food and Drug Administration; Story Landis, PhD, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health; Paul Gileno, president and founder, U.S. Pain Foundation; Carmen R. Green, MD, professor and associate vice president and associate dean for health equity and inclusion, at the University of Michigan; and Rebecca Kirch, JD, director of Quality of Life & Survivorship at the American Cancer Society.

A major theme addressed by the panelists was the need for non-addictive medicines for pain and non-medication pain management strategies. Green noted that the use of psychological and physical therapy and other management techniques early in an acute pain or pre-chronic pain condition might lead to prevention of chronic pain development. She also stressed the importance of educating MDs and RNs on multidisciplinary pain management strategies. Gileno pointed out that insurance coverage can be hard to obtain, particularly for alternative therapies, and that pain patients would benefit from evidence-based research to prove that these treatment modalities are effective ways of managing pain, and that they often allow pain patients toreturn to work, improving productivity and saving money in the long run.

The discussion concluded with a question on how best to address gaps in public education and awareness on pain and prescription drug use. Panelists raised a number of strategies, from pain patients sharing their stories through social media, to public health awareness campaigns by celebrities and political leaders, targeted focus groups, and increased collaboration between doctors, patients, manufacturers and regulators. The hope is that a renewed focus on research and education will promote the development of new solutions to address these incredibly complex and challenging health issues.

For more details of the panel discussion, click here.