We reported the news this past week that the FDA will require label changes to guide prescribers on gradual, individualized tapering of opioids. The Agency reported what has been obvious to pain patients for some time—that harms is being reported from the sudden discontinuing of opioid pain medicines on pain patients.
The FDA announcement was met generally with praise by some of the pain leaders we spoke with.
“We remain deeply concerned about the significant population of patients who have been using opioid pain medications appropriately to manage their pain where the benefits to these patients outweigh the risks yet, are being forced off their medication due to physician fears rather than what is best for these patients,” said Cindy Steinberg, US Pain Foundation.
Stanford Psychologist Beth Darnall, who has been a critic of forced tapering agreed.
“It is wonderful to see national agencies issuing dedicated communications to correct the misapplication of CDC guidelines, and to assure patient protections from iatrogenic harms caused by rapid and forced tapering,” she said.
For Richard Lawhern, PhD, Director of Research for the Alliance for the Treatment of Intractable Pain, this is a long overdue “baby step” the FDA has taken.
As the week went on, it started me thinking about what impact this might have on the U.S. Health and Human Services .
The initial draft was well received by pain patients and many professional medical associations and professional societies.
Generally, it argued that balanced pain management should be based on a biopsychosocial model of care and that Individualized, patient-centered care is vital to addressing the public health pain crisis.
Did you know that 6,000 people commented before the April 1 deadline for public comment period? That’s a lot of input to categorize and include in a final report—which is due to be issued May 31st. The Task Force will next meet May 9 and 10.
This document will be the most important proclamation on pain treatment in the past several years. Here’s hoping that this week’s news from the FDA, the growing understanding by the national media that the opioid “crisis” is also a crisis for pain patients, and the thousands of voices who gave their opinions on the draft report are absorbed in the final report.
Like many of you, I’m anxious to see what the final report looks like—it’s an opportunity to create a roadmap that can truly benefit pain patients in the U.S.