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FDA Hearing Explores Balance Between Chronic Pain and Opioid Crisis

Federal drug regulators held a meeting Monday, to talk to patients about how to balance the treatment of chronic pain with concerns over the ongoing opioid crisis. 

The FDA hosted a public meeting on Patient-Focused Drug Development for Chronic Pain, seeking to get input from patients on their experiences with pain and treatment through the use of a variety of drugs, such as opioids, antidepressants, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb issued a statement yesterday saying that the agency is looking for ways to both help treat those in chronic pain and avoid opioid abuse and misuse.

“So, as we consider new policy steps to address the opioid addiction crisis, the FDA remains focused on striking the right balance between reducing the rate of new addiction by decreasing exposure to opioids and rationalizing prescribing, while still enabling appropriate access to those patients who have legitimate medical need for these medicines,” Gottlieb said. “We want to better understand the challenges or barriers patients face accessing various treatments for pain.”

Gottlieb noted that there are still far too many opioid prescriptions being doled out in the U.S., and says the agency is taking a number of new steps to aggressively confront the opioid epidemic in a way that does not hinder access to appropriate chronic pain care.

The opioid abuse and overdose crisis has reached epic proportions. Last year, a study indicated opioid deaths now outnumber breast cancer fatalities and the problem is only worsening.

Some research indicates doctor prescribing habits are largely to blame. Especially considering half of all patients don’t actually need opioids to help control their pain. 

Opioids now account for two-thirds of drug overdose deaths. The Surgeon General of the United States recently urged more Americans to become familiar with naloxone, a drug used to rapidly combat the effects of opioid overdose. 

For those who were unable to attend the meeting, the FDA is accepting comments from the public until September 10, 2018. Details for how to submit comments is available in the meeting’s Federal Register Notice.

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