August 25, 2014
Recently the DEA, despite pleas from the national pharmacists professional societies (http://www.pharmacist.com/sites/default/files/files/Joint_Rescheduling_Letter_to_HHS_10_2013.pdf) rescheduled hydrocodone combination products into schedule II: imposing significant restrictions and barriers to access to these products, particularly affecting older adult Americans (http://www.ofr.gov/OFRUpload/OFRData/2014-19922_PI.pdf) .While the prescription abuse epidemic indeed is a critical problem, the ‘addict’ label does not apply for the vast majority of our nation’s frail elderly. Use of medications for pain carries the same benefits and risk considerations of all medication use. Appropriate use and identifying and resolving mis-use is always a part of a care plan which includes medication therapy. We are throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and the DEA action is another example.
Pain used to be the sixth vital sign. Drastically reducing older Americans’ access to needed pain therapies takes us back decades. Untreated pain is a huge burden for patients, their families, and complicates all other conditions we are trying to treat. We will now have to work twice as hard to address our patients’ needs.
Joseph Gruber RPh, CGP, FASCP Chief Clinical Officer, ActualMeds Corporation. @jgactualmeds