02.12.19

Murray Emphasizes Importance of Addressing the Needs of People Managing Pain During Continued Opioid Response Efforts

At HELP hearing, Senator Murray highlights the need to make sure patients living with pain can access the treatments they need 

 

20 million people suffer from persistent chronic pain that interferes with their work and daily activities

 

Murray: “We have to find responsible, comprehensive solutions for pain management that ensure opioids are marketed, prescribed, and used responsibly but, at the same time, are within reach for people dealing with chronic pain.”

 

Murray: “Pain isn’t one-size-fits-all—and the tools we use to manage it must not be either. We need to do more to make sure that everyone facing pain is able to get treatments that work for them.”

 

***Watch Senator Murray’s full speech HERE***

 

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Patty Murray, (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at the Committee’s hearing on pain management during the opioid crisis. In her remarks, Senator Murray highlighted the need to ensure access to pain treatment for patients dealing with pain while ensuring opioids are marketed, prescribed, and used responsibly. She emphasized the importance of making sure providers are helping patients access the pain management tools that best meet their needs. Senator Murray also called for further action to build on the bipartisan steps taken last year to address the opioid crisis.

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s speech:

"50 million people nationwide suffer from pain that persists for weeks or years. For almost 20 million people, this pain can interfere with their work and daily life activities. Pain management is an absolutely critical quality of life issue for these people and their families. Acute and chronic pain can make it harder to keep a job and earn a paycheck. Even when treated, pain can make it difficult to travel to and from work and sit at a desk for long stretches of time. And pain doesn’t just affect a person’s livelihood—it affects every aspect of their life. Without pain management, patients may not be able to tackle the tasks they need to live independently, like getting dressed, driving a car, or doing laundry. They may not be able to spend quality time with loved ones, as their pain can make it hard to enjoy a meal with friends and family, attend a grandkid’s soccer game, or even leave the house. Without the right pain management tools, some patients struggle to get a decent night’s sleep.”

 

“For people living with pain, the ability to get the treatments that help them manage it can impact their entire life—and I’m very interested to hear one of our witnesses today offer her firsthand perspective on this—because it is so important that we listen to patients about their health care needs, whether that is finding ways to address that person’s pain or recognizing when asking for pain killers is a result of an addiction, which requires an entirely different form of treatment."

 

“Pain isn’t one-size-fits-all—and the tools we use to manage it must not be either. We need to do more to make sure that everyone facing pain is able to get treatments that work for them. This means ensuring research is done to better understand the biological basis of pain and the factors that determine what might work best for a patient.”

Video of Sen. Murray’s speech available HERE.

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s speech:

“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us. This Committee has done a lot of important work on the opioid crisis that families and communities across the country are facing.

 

“I was glad we were able to come together last year to take strong bipartisan steps to address some of the root causes and ripple effects of the opioid crisis, and I hope we can continue to build on that work.

 

“However, today’s hearing offers an important opportunity to take a slightly different perspective on some of the challenges related to the use of opioids, and I hope it can serve as a reminder that while we are working to address substance use disorder and help the families facing it, we can’t forget about the people facing pain, both acute and chronic.

 

“And we can’t overlook how important it is they get the tools they need to manage their pain and find relief.

“For too long, providers were incentivized to think of opioids as an easy and harmless solution to addressing pain, and the lack of understanding about pain management and the risks of opioid prescribing meant health care providers prescribed opioids far more often than was necessary—contributing to the tragic increases in opioid misuse.

 

“But that doesn’t mean that the solution to the opioid crisis is for providers to stop finding ways to help their patients manage their pain.

 

“We have to find responsible, comprehensive solutions for pain management that ensure opioids are marketed, prescribed, and used responsibly but, at the same time, are within reach for people dealing with chronic pain.

 

“It’s important we remember that for many people who are elderly, people who have been seriously injured, people with chronic health conditions or undergoing aggressive health treatments, and people who have a disability, pain seriously impacts their day-to-day lives.

 

“50 million people nationwide suffer from pain that persists for weeks or years. For almost 20 million people, this pain can interfere with their work and daily life activities.

 

“Pain management is an absolutely critical quality of life issue for these people and their families. Acute and chronic pain can make it harder to keep a job and earn a paycheck. Even when treated, pain can make it difficult to travel to and from work and sit at a desk for long stretches of time.

 

“And pain doesn’t just affect a person’s livelihood—it affects every aspect of their life. Without pain management, patients may not be able to tackle the tasks they need to live independently, like getting dressed, driving a car, or doing laundry.

 

“They may not be able to spend quality time with loved ones, as their pain can make it hard to enjoy a meal with friends and family, attend a grandkid’s soccer game, or even leave the house. Without the right pain management tools, some patients struggle to get a decent night’s sleep.

 

“For people living with pain, the ability to get the treatments that help them manage it can impact their entire life—and I’m very interested to hear one of our witnesses today offer her firsthand perspective on this—because it is so important that we listen to patients about their health care needs, whether that is finding ways to address that person’s pain or recognizing when asking for pain killers is a result of an addiction, which requires an entirely different form of treatment.

 

“Of course, another part of what makes this issue so challenging is that no two people experience pain the same way. Where pain is felt, how it is felt, how severe it is, how long it lasts, and how much it impacts their life—can vary widely from person to person.

 

“Pain isn’t one-size-fits-all—and the tools we use to manage it must not be either.

 

“We need to do more to make sure that everyone facing pain is able to get treatments that work for them. This means ensuring research is done to better understand the biological basis of pain and the factors that determine what might work best for a patient.

 

“It means training providers to recognize pain symptoms, to truly listen to their patients’ needs, and to consider lower risk, less invasive options before turning to more extreme measures.

 

“And it means making sure insurers’ policies support access to these options rather than incentivizing providers to simply write a prescription for an opioid without taking the time to understand what might work best for the patient.

 

“And for some with severe pain, it may mean responsible opioid prescribing, but for many others there are options that will work better and have lower risks of addiction. From other types of drugs that may better fit their needs, to services like physical therapy, to treatments that help address the psychosocial dynamics of pain like cognitive behavioral therapy, to support for modifying their lifestyles in ways that might help manage their pain—like through exercise.

 

“And it also means addressing threats to their health care—like the blatantly partisan legal threat from the Republican lawsuit that could strike down protections for people with pre-existing conditions—including people affected by pain.

“During our hearing today, I’m interested to see what insight our witnesses have to offer about these complex problems, and what steps we can take to help people get the support they need to manage their pain.

 

“For example, what can we do to make sure insurers cover pain management options that patients need, and do so in ways that help them quickly find the treatment that works best for them?

 

“How can we tackle the workforce shortage and make sure people in pain are able to find a care provider that can serve them close to home?

 

“What can we do to address health disparities when it comes to pain treatment?

 

“And how can we make sure employers understand their obligations to accommodate employees struggling with chronic pain under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and help them learn how best to support these employees?

 

“As we continue our efforts to respond to the opioid crisis and build on the strong bipartisan steps we took last year, I’m glad we have this opportunity today to look at another important angle of that challenge.

“Thank you.”

 

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