DSN recently launched a new microsite, DrugStoreNews.com/Pain-Management, to bring attention to a tragic side of the prescription drug abuse story — one that's not often told. The millions of Americans who live in chronic pain who already find it difficult to access the medications they need may soon find it even more difficult — because proposed changes in regulatory policy are expected to place additional hurdles on their treatment pathway.
The Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration have both recommended that combination prescription pain medications containing hydrocodone be reclassified as Schedule II controlled substances. The very real impact of that proposed regulation is the restriction it places on the access of those pain medications to legitimate patients.
These aren't drug addicts. They don't doctor shop. They're not in it for the high. These are real people. They're your neighbor, in fact, hailing from all walks of life. And the only thing worse than being stigmatized as a criminal pain-pill seeker is the difficulty they already face obtaining appropriate therapy for their chronic pain condition.
The microsite features stories of a man who walked 2,400 miles visiting pain clinics and hospitals along the way to discuss pain with others. Or the story of a former radio personality and present-day pain advocate, who volunteers as the national spokesperson and pain advocate co-chair for IPPU: Intractable Pain Patients United.
For too long, these advocates suffered in silence. They were invisible. And there are more invisible pain sufferers out there than there are people who are, in fact, addicted to pain killers. A lot more. According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are 2.1 million people who were addicted to pain pills in the prior year. According to the Institute of Medicine, more than 100 million patients experience chronic pain.
These 2.1 million pain-pill addicts are very visible, however. They're escapades in obtaining their fix is prominent all over the nightly news to the tune of "something must be done." So DSN is doing something equally prominent — shifting the spotlight from stories of the criminals to stories of the sufferers with the same intensity as the nightly news, because something does need to be done. And in helping to bring attention to many of these stories, DSN not only can serve as an important platform for patient advocacy and policy issues, but also as a conduit for change.
Because the story of the 100 million needs to be told.