Proposed Opioid Legislation an Opportunity to Achieve Balance in Addressing Abuse and Maintaining Access to Legitimate Use of Pain Medication

HELP Committee Should Include Palliative Care Language in Final Bill

April 24, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) marked up the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. Included in the proposal are several promising provisions that aim to address addiction while maintaining access to necessary relief for individuals fighting pain from cancer and other serious illnesses.

Specifically, ACS CAN supports measures that would empower the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to focus on the development and approval of new, non-addictive pain treatments as well as requirements for manufacturers to provide patients with safe disposal options for unused drugs.

At the markup, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) filed an amendment that suggests adding palliative care legislation to the bill.

A statement from Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN, follows:

“ACS CAN applauds the Senate HELP Committee for taking a thoughtful and balanced approach to addressing the growing public health crisis that has resulted from misuse and abuse of opioids in this country. It is critical that any final bill balances efforts to address the crisis to ensure those like cancer patients and survivors who endure pain from their disease or side effects from treatment don’t face additional barriers to legitimate use of this medication.

“Of particular promise in the proposal is a provision that would increase critical resources for researchers to develop new, non-addictive pain treatments and accelerate efforts that bring those treatments to market in a timely fashion.

“In line with the proposal to investigate non-addictive pain treatments, there is an opportunity to include the Palliative Care Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) in the final bill. PCHETA is bipartisan legislation that would reduce suffering and improve the quality of life of cancer patients and their families by better coordinating their care and addressing the often-debilitating symptoms of disease and treatment.  

“PCHETA supports the growing demand for palliative care, a specialized medical care that focuses on care coordination and relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for life-threatening diseases such as cancer. The legislation would facilitate and expand federal research into palliative care; support training for nurses, nurse practitioners and other allied health professionals to effectively practice palliative care; and establish a national palliative care public education and awareness campaign.

“ACS CAN urges the committee to include PCHETA in the bill as it moves to the Senate floor. PCHETA combined with increased research into alternative therapies could truly help to impact the public health crisis and promote access to appropriate pain management for those with serious illnesses like cancer."

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