A Call for Action 2016
By Twinkle VanFleet
Since 2012, the estimated rise in addiction and opioid related abuse was an astounding 26.4 to 36 million people throughout the world. The accidental overdose of prescription related deaths were 4 times the amount of similar deaths in 1999. According to the National Survey on Drugs Use and Health, 70 percent of all people who abused prescription analgesics got them from friends or relatives while 5 percent got them from a drug dealer or the internet. While most of the focus has been on patients abusing their medications we must not lose sight that the majority of these patients take their medication as prescribed. The negative innuendos influence the positive conclusion that long-term opioid treatment does in fact give quality of life to not only cancer patients, but non-cancerous chronic pain patients whose pain cannot be controlled any other way.
In an effort to deter abuse and/or misuse in patients, family, friends or associates, decrease the value in street sales, reduce the drug epidemic in certain populations, abuse deterrent formulations (ADF) are beneficial step forward in the diversion of the prescription drug issue.
OxyContin, Nucynta ER, Opana ER, Oxecta, Embeda, and Targiniq each contain abuse deterrent formulations (ADF) or tamper deterrent formulations (TDF). The most common form of abuse is by swallowing the medication. Other forms are chewing, swallowing, snorting, ingesting, inhaling, and injecting for the fast acting euphoric effect. Naloxone is a narcotic that reverses the effects of other narcotic medicines and can be used to treat drug overdose in emergency situations. Naltrexone hydrochloride blocks the effects of opioids by competitive binding (i.e., analogous to competitive inhibition of enzymes) at opioid receptors. Naloxone and Naltrexone are both opioid antagonists and each conclusively block the body from experiencing the opiate and related endorphins. This occurs by binding of the opioid receptors with higher than affinity than agonists, but do not activate the receptors.
TDFs will protect people who decide to modify the medication’s original form by removing the opioid for prompt use and abuse. Otherwise, extraction acts quickly and the time it takes to produce its effects can be immediate.
ADF’s contain ingredients for safer distribution. Patients would continue to receive the management of pain and physicians would be less likely to stop providing access to pain care.
Not all patients should be diverted to ADF or TDF by their physicians. Patient Evaluation and Risk Stratification should be utilized to mitigate potential risks. Pharmacies and insurance companies should not be allowed to replace an Abuse Deterrent Formulation prescription opioid for a similar generic non ADF opioid. The prescription drug abuse issue has brought an adverse impression onto honest patients with incurable and intractable chronic pain syndromes and diseases and has left some pain professionals feeling perplexed.
With the continued development of these safer opioid medications we are contributing to the future of better health and pain care practices. Pain patients must remain a high priority in the midst of the current and ongoing concern that prescriptions will likely be misused or abused. It is imperative that patients be assessed on an individual basis and not as an assumption to the status quo.
We must find a balance that separates patients who truly need opioid medication to live productive lives and those who are abusing them. Responsible patients should not be punished in an attempt to crack down on prescription drugs and opioid abuse. Legislators, health care professionals and pharmaceutical companies must work together to stop opioid abuse while keeping the needs of chronic intractable pain patients in mind.
Patients are being labeled for their chronic pain identity. In the last year or more they have not been receiving their medication management either by their physicians, insurance or pharmacy. In one instance, I was informed that a patient with no history of abuse was being referred to what seemed a drug rehabilitation program in order to get her medication. If she did not comply, she would not receive.
Another gentleman, previously prescribed Suboxone for pain management, now cannot receive opioid managed care because the information in his Prescription Drug Monitoring Program insinuates prescription drug abuse.
Steps need to be taken to ensure that notes are added to the PDMP/CURES database on individuals. Suboxone itself is only an implication without verification for what the medication was prescribed for.
On behalf of those who need, not want, but need medication to sustain quality of life, I call upon our legislative leaders to be proactive in this area. Help stop the abuse without penalizing those of us who are able to live at least a modicum of life due to the effectiveness of these prescription pain medications.
Think about it, as if you’re needing to… no! really needing to, begging to, ease your Mama. Close your eyes and imagine.
I call on you to not make any compromises for a standard not yet met.
- America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. Nora D. Volkow, M.D. May 14, 2014.
Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse
- 2. Prescription Drug Abuse. Office of National Drug Control Policy
- 3. Tamper-Deterrent Opioid Formulations: Who Needs Them, and at What Cost? Robert Twillman, PhD. Pain Practitioner
Twinkle VanFleet, Sacramento resident, pain patient, Executive Board Member and Advocacy Director for the Power of Pain Foundation.
Written Thursday, December 04, 2014
Updated Wednesday October 14, 2015