The topic of opioids, particularly as they relate to addiction and overdose (as opposed to treatment of chronic pain) has inserted itself in the fast-moving madness of politics.
This is evidenced by presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle addressing the topic of opioid addiction, and by the way in which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) secretively attempted to significantly reduce access to opioids in its controversial Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, which Congress and others have questioned.
Tonight, President Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to the joint session of Congress, where he will discuss economic progress, action on climate change, global American leadership, health care reform, social progress and equality, according to WhiteHouse.gov.
One thing many of the 100 million Americans who suffer in chronic pain wonder is, “Will the topic of opioids be raised, and if so, will pain sufferers be represented?”
Look at some of the invited guests and the answer seems clear.
The First Lady historically invites guests that exemplify the themes and ideals that the President lays out in his address. This year, 24 seats are located in the box with the First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden and Valerie Jarrett. Twenty three individuals have been invited, and one seat will be left vacant as a statement about victims of gun violence.
One of the First Lady’s guests is Cary Dixon. Cary is an opioid reform advocate whose adult son has a prescription abuse disorder. Dixon’s experience represents the Administration’s position on opioids, which is, “prescription drug abuse and heroin use have taken a heartbreaking toll on too many Americans and their families.”
Other guests who will sit with the First Lady include a Syrian refugee, a mayor from Shelby County, TN, a same-sex marriage advocate, a police chief, an Affordable Care Act “navigator,” the CEO of Microsoft, among others. Each represent something that is important to the President’s legacy or his going-forward political agenda. Each represent different slices of America – some very small, and a few large. None represent the 100 million Americans in pain.
Some members of Congress have invited guests that have a position on opioids.
Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) have invited Mass. Attorney General, Maura Healey, who will attend the speech and push for federal help combating opioid abuse.
Healey is known for making Amphastar Pharmaceuticals pay the state $325,000 to cover the cost of Narcan, which had risen from about $22 per dose to $65 per dose.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has invited Don Flattery, who lost his son to an opioid overdose in 2014. Flattery has become an advocate in the fight against opioid addiction and is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse. Sen. Kaine introduced legislation to help prevent opioid overdose deaths by encouraging physicians to co-prescribe naloxone alongside opioid prescriptions and by making naloxone more widely available in federal health settings.
Sen. Mark Kirk (R-ILL) has invited Mark Filler, who lost is son to a heroin overdose in 2014, and is an advocate for increasing access to naloxone. Filler started the Jordan Michael Filler Foundation, which promotes the message that substance abuse is a medical disease that should be treated accordingly.
America does have a serious opioid addiction and overdose problem. And, it needs to be addressed.
The growing fear is that the government’s proposed solutions to the addiction and overdose problem may do great harm to people in pain by limiting access to critically important care and pain medicines. As such, there is a growing fear that only one side of a two-sided issue will be heard.
The State of the Union address starts at 9:00 pm ET.