Barby Ingle, Columnist
It's no secret that the abuse of pain medication and illegal opioids has led to a growing public health problem across the country. The numbers are alarming and they are growing.
Also alarming is the number of people who suffer with chronic pain. According to the Institute of Medicine, one in three Americans – about 100 million people – have been affected with a condition that causes pain.
Since 2002, I have been battling Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a progressive neuro-autoimmune condition that affects multiple systems in the body. The worst symptom for me is the constant burning fire pain. It feels like someone put lighter fluid in me, lit it, and I can’t put the fire out. I know firsthand how difficult the journey for pain relief can be, particularly the sidelong glances and disbelief from medical professionals.
The challenges are complex and multi-layered, and I always applaud solutions that help to balance pain management with the cost that prescription drug abuse has on society. Promising technological advancements in recent years are proving to be an important part of the battle.
Among these are so-called "abuse deterrent formulas" (ADFs) of commonly prescribed opioid pain medications that are being developed to prevent some of the deadliest forms of opioid abuse. The formulas generally make it harder to crush or liquefy pills for snorting or injecting.
These tamper deterring formulas of pain medications provide patients with the same pain relief as conventional opioids, but incorporate breakthrough technology designed to protect against tampering and abuse.
Since Purdue Pharma introduced a reformulated abuse deterrent version of OxyContin (oxycodone ER) in 2010, the “nonmedical” or recreational use of OxyContin has fallen dramatically.
Several states are considering legislation in 2017 to improve patient access to these new abuse deterrent formulas of painkillers. As bills are introduced and updated, the International Pain Foundation and other pain organizations track them on our websites, put out action alerts and ask for the pain patient community to get involved by sharing their stories.
ADFs have received widespread support as part of a comprehensive effort to combat prescription drug abuse and promote appropriate pain management, including from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, members of Congress, and the National Association of Attorneys General — including California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was recently elected to the U.S. Senate.
Abuse of pain medications has led to a growing public health problem nationwide. Each year approximately 4.5 million Americans use prescription pain medications for non-medical purposes, contributing to more than 14,000 overdose deaths annually.
To date, the Food and Drug Administration has approved abuse-deterrent labeling for seven drugs (OxyContin, Targiniq, Embeda, Hysingla, Morphabond, Xtampaza, and Troxyca), with two other abuse-deterrent opioids under review.
This technology is only part of the solution, but it is a solution nonetheless. Patients that have struggled with addiction or substance abuse in the past, those who live with others who are current or recovering addicts, and those who live with teens or young adults who may seek opioids for recreational use can all benefit from ADFs.
For the sake of those with legitimate, life-altering pain and for the safety of those prone to abuse these medications, I urge our lawmakers to stand up for policies that preserve and improve patient access to ADF technology.
Barby Ingle suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and endometriosis. Barby is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and president of the International Pain Foundation. She is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics.
More information about Barby can be found at her website.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.