6. Measures need to be in place to prevent opioid misuse, abuse and addiction, while not preventing access to those who have a legitimate need.
People with legitimate pain still need opioids but are they all same? Not according to Mark Sirgo, PharmD, president and CEO of BioDelivery Sciences.
“Opioids can be safe and effective in treating pain when used correctly,” says Sirgo. “It is important not to prevent access to those who have legitimate chronic pain and who require an effective analgesic. Severe pain can have negative effects on quality of life and prevent people from enjoying their daily activities, such as work, school, etc.”
Beth Darnall, PhD, clinical associate professor in the department of anesthesiology, perioperative and pain medicine, at Stanford University Pain Management Center, agrees. “Insurance coverage must be expanded to offer physicians and patients access to effective opioid alternatives for chronic pain,” she says.
Additionally, initiatives that aim to reduce opioid prescriptions must improve patient access to non-opioid treatment for chronic pain “such as evidence-based multidisciplinary pain care and behavioral pain treatment,” according to Darnall.
Also, not all opioids are the same. Buprenorphine, for example, is considered a Schedule 3 opioid, meaning it is classified by the Drug Enforcement Administration as having lower abuse potential than other opioids—including morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone—which are Schedule 2 drugs, according to Sirgo. “And buprenorphine is the only opioid that can make this claim with the indication for chronic pain. There are new alternatives that effectively treat pain while minimizing some of the risks.”