Chairman Alexander: As We Deal With Opioid Crisis, We Must Keep In Mind Millions Of People Who Are In Pain

Posted on February 12, 2019

Now that we have started to turn the train around and head in a different direction on the use of opioids, everyone – doctors, nurses, insurers, and patients – will need to think about the different ways we should treat and manage pain.

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 12, 2019– Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said, “We want to make sure that as we deal with the opioid crisis, we keep in mind those people who are in pain.”

“A new report released in 2018, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that about 50 million Americans have chronic pain, and nearly 20 million of those Americans have high-impact chronic pain,” said Alexander. “Here is the reality: we are engaged in a massive effort to make dramatic reductions in the supply and use of opioids – the most effective painkiller we have. But on the theory that every action has an unintended consequence, we want to make sure that as we deal with the opioid crisis, we keep in mind those people who are in pain.”

Last year, Congress passed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, comprehensive legislation to combat the opioid crisis, which President Trump called “the single largest bill to combat a drug crisis in the history of our country.” The legislation included more than 70 ideas from 72 senators, and eight committees in the House and five committees in the Senate, that included: Reauthorizing training programs for doctors and nurses who prescribe treatments for pain; Increasing access to behavioral and mental health providers; and encouraging the use of blister packs for opioids, such as a 3 or 7-day supply, and safe ways of disposing unused drugs. President Trump signed the legislation into law on October 24, 2018. 

Alexander continued, “Now that we have started to turn the train around and head in a different direction on the use of opioids, everyone – doctors, nurses, insurers, and patients – will need to think about the different ways we should treat and manage pain.  There are other things the federal government is doing to better understand what causes pain and how we treat and manage it. There is the National Pain Strategy, developed by the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, which develops recommendations to prevent, treat, manage, and research pain. Through the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health’s HEAL Initiative, researchers are working to better understand pain and why some people experience it differently than others.”

Alexander made his remarks today at a hearing to better understand the causes of pain, how we can improve care for patients with pain, and where we are on developing new medicines and ways to treat pain.

Alexander also told the story of Dan, a constituent from Maryville, Tennessee, who recently wrote to him about his wife, who has a rare disease that causes her chronic pain: “Dan is concerned because it has become more difficult for her to access painkillers. Dan wrote, ‘She is not an abuser, and is doing everything right. Now it’s harder for her to get the medicine she needs.’” 

You can read Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.

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