The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proudly launched an interactive map of opioid prescriptions to “allow the user to see both the number and percentage of opioid claims at the local level and better understand how this critical issue impacts communities nationwide.”
Critical issue? There they go again. Opioids only = evil, drug pushers, addicts and death. So, hey, let’s pour money into making a map to further fuel this one-sided government position against legal prescriptions and the importance opioids play in millions of people’s lives.
“The opioid epidemic impacts every state, county and municipality. To address this epidemic, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive effective treatment, we need accurate, timely information about where the problems are and to what extent they exist,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “This new mapping tool gives providers, local health officials, and others the data to become knowledgeable about their community’s Medicare opioid prescription rate.”
So, Andy, let me ask. How does this map “ensure that individuals with pain receive effective treatment?” How does this map help anyone in pain? Come on, Andy, we’re smarter than that. But it was cute of you to include “individuals in pain” in your big announcement, as if you can check that box.
It does appear that the government cannot break its own laws – particularly when it comes to the security of patient data. The interactive map does not include names of patients. I wonder if they could have found a way around HIPAA laws would they have done just that?
But, they did realize they can list the doctors who prescribe opioids. So, they conveniently allow the public to look up the healthcare providers who prescribe opioids and how much they prescribe. Go ahead, check it out here. We all know the answer as to why CMS does this.
Don’t think CMS is the only government agency excited about positioning opioids as evil, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, had this to say about the interactive map:
“The opioid abuse and overdose epidemic continues to devastate American families. This mapping tool will help doctors, nurses, and other health care providers assess opioid-prescribing habits while continuing to ensure patients have access to the most effective pain treatment. Informing prescribers can help reduce opioid use disorder among patients.”
Hey! There’s that same near-parenthetically placed phrase Andy used. Tom. Um. I don’t think these words came out of your mouth. But, you and Andy are really good at sticking to talking points. And trust the National Pain Report readers – they’ll believe you.
So, Tom. We’ll ask you what we asked Andy. How will “this mapping tool help providers continue to ensure patients have access to the most effective pain treatment?” How, Tom? How does a satellite image of a zip code in red representing a high volume of prescriptions help ensure access to treatment? Wouldn’t it be safer to assume that just the opposite will happen? It already is happening.
Finally, in its press release on the topic, we see exactly how important the real epidemic – the epidemic of pain – is to the broader Administration.
“The Administration has made addressing opioid abuse, dependence, and overdose a priority, and work is underway within HHS on this important issue. The evidence-based initiative focuses on three promising areas: informing opioid prescribing practices, increasing the use of naloxone (a drug that reverses symptoms of a drug overdose), and using medication-assisted treatment to treat opioid addiction.”
That’s a lot of focus, time and energy on a small population of people, and not a word about people in pain, other than both Andy and Tom reassuring us that all this work will ensure patients have access to the most effective pain treatment. Can we see that plan, fellas?
Editor’s Note: Doug Lynch is a former chronic pain patient who worked in the pain industry for ten years. He is a partner in the National Pain Report.