NEW YORK — The Drug Store News Group, the leading provider of news, information and clinical education for the retail pharmacy industry, has launched the new microsite, Drugstorenews.com/pain-management, to help bring attention to another tragic side of the prescription drug abuse story — the millions of Americans who live in chronic pain that may be unable to access the medications they need thanks to proposed changes in regulatory policy.
Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended that combination prescription pain medications containing hydrocodone be reclassified as schedule II controlled substances. The change would limit the amounts of these drugs that a pharmacy can buy from a wholesaler. The unintended effect is that when a legitimate patient shows up at the pharmacy, the medications they need may not be available.
While prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in the United States — according to the to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 14,000 people died from prescription drug overdoses in 2008, about three-quarters of which were caused by opioid-based painkillers — as many as 100 million Americans live with chronic pain, according to Institute of Medicine estimates.
The new site at Drugstorenews.com/pain-management, gives a voice and puts a face on these legitimate patients and what it means when they are unable to access the medications they need to manage pain. Working with the U.S. Pain Foundation, Drug Store News was able to capture the stories of those living with chronic pain and their daily struggles. The new Drug Store News microsite ties into the U.S. Pain Foundation's INvisible Project, a photojournalistic showcase of the day-to-day experiences of real people with chronic pain, which was first introduced in 2010. The goal of the INvisible Project is to shed light on the pain that can't be seen, but greatly affects the lives of the Foundation's members; to make visible the experiences and challenges associated with chronic pain that are often hidden behind the walls of hospitals, bedrooms and the confines of public awareness.
Drugstorenews.com/pain-management will be updated regularly with new content, including a dedicated newsfeed for articles related to pain management legislation, policy issues and patient access, as well as related video and audio content.
"There is no denying that prescription drug abuse is a major problem in America," said Drug Store News Group editor in chief Rob Eder. "But there is another side of the story, and we want to make sure it gets told. We created this site to help educate media professionals, policy-makers, legislators and other important stakeholders about what it means for honest patients who will suffer as a result of this flawed policy. We wanted to tell the story from the point of view of the legitimate patient who needs these medications to manage pain, perhaps even making it possible for them to complete other disease-related therapies — like chemotherapy — allow them to sleep through the night, continue to go to work and otherwise enjoy the daily activities of a normal life."
"We are thrilled to see Drug Store News, a leader in retail pharmacy information focus on the issue of patients and their need for treatment," said Paul Gileno, president and founder of the U.S. Pain Foundation. "As an organization founded by people with pain, for people with pain, we applaud DSN and are happy to work with them to shed additional light on our brave INvisible project members who continue to share their stories in order to shed light on the struggle of those managing chronic pain."
According to patient advocacy groups, there is no research that proves that reclassifying products containing hydrocodone to higher, more restrictive classifications will curb abuse of pain medications. In fact, oxycodone, which is already a schedule II medication, remains one of the most heavily abused prescription drugs. Further, there is evidence that suggests that these more restrictive classifications block access to medications and cause honest patients harm. Prescriptions for schedule II medications can't be transmitted by phone or fax, and they cannot be refilled. Patients with chronic pain would be forced to visit their doctors just to get a refill.
What is needed to effectively combat prescription drug abuse and protect patient access to critical medications, these groups say, is a commission of federal and state government agencies, law enforcement and healthcare professionals to pursue more equitable solutions that target illegitimate sellers, better educate prescribers and implement more advanced drug monitoring and tracking technologies.