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News Release
October 23, 2001

DEA to Join Pain Advocates in Issuing Statement on Prescription Pain Medications

Collaboration Prompted by Heightened Attention to
Abuse of Pain Relievers Such as OxyContin

OxyContin is an opiate prescribed for moderate to severe pain relief associated with cancer, chronic pain, and serious injuries.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration and leading health organizations supporting pain management will issue a joint statement on the use and abuse of prescription pain medications at a press conference, Oct. 23, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Journalists from around the country not able to attend in person may participate in this event by telephone on a live audio hook-up. The joint statement is embargoed until 12:00 Noon EDT; Tuesday, Oct. 23.

This event will mark the first time the DEA has signed on to a consensus statement developed jointly with organizations supporting better pain management. These organizations include groups representing physicians, pharmacists, nurses, anesthesiologists, and patient advocates. Their collaboration is prompted by widespread attention this year to the problem of diversion and abuse of opioid pain relievers. These medications have proven essential to people with pain, including many with chronic conditions or terminal illnesses.

The briefing is being sponsored by Last Acts, the largest national coalition working to improve care near the end of life. Last Acts receives funding from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving health and health care for all Americans.

WHO: Asa Hutchinson, Administrator, DEA Dr. Russell Portenoy, Beth Israel Medical Center
Tom Menighan, President, American Pharmaceutical Assn. (the national professional society of pharmacists)
Mary Vargas, chronic pain patient
Karen Orloff Kaplan (Moderator), National Program Director, Last Acts

WHEN: Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2001
12:00 Noon EDT

WHERE: National Press Club
First Amendment Room 529 14th St., NW
Washington, DC

HOW: Journalists may attend in person or dial in by telephone 5-10 minutes before the event begins. The dial-in number is 800-213-1352.

A taped replay of the press conference will also be accessible for 24 hours after the event by dialing 800-633-8284. When prompted, use the access code 19858309.

CONTACT: Carol Schadelbauer, Mollie Katz, or Shantae Goodloe, 301-652-1558.
DEA Contact: Michael L. Chapman, Chief, Public Affairs, 202-307-7977

Drug Enforcement Administration, 21 Health Groups Call for Balanced Policy on Prescription Pain Medications Like OxyContin

Goal is to Protect Legitimate Use of Prescription Drugs for Patients in Pain

Washington, D.C. (Oct. 23, 2001) -In an unprecedented collaboration, the US Drug Enforcement Administration today joined 21 of the nation’s leading pain and health organizations to call for a balanced policy governing prescription pain medications such as OxyContin. DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson urged a policy that protects the appropriate use of opioid pain relievers for patients who need them while also preventing abuse and diversion of the drugs.

It is available in four strengths (10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg) as a controlled-release tablet, the effects of which last approximately 12 hours, rendering it longer lasting and stronger than any other oxycodone product on the market.

Hutchinson stood with groups representing physicians, nurses, pharmacists and patient advocates at a press conference held to release a consensus statement on prescription pain medications such as OxyContin, an opioid that has received wide attention as a new drug of choice by substance abusers. Opioid analgesics are a class of natural and synthetic medication that relieves moderate to severe pain. The joint statement noted that for many patients, these drugs offer the most effective way to treat their pain, and often the only option that provides significant relief.

Because opioids are one of several types of controlled substances that have potential for abuse, they are carefully regulated by the DEA and other state agencies. For example, a physician must be licensed by State medical authorities and registered with the DEA before prescribing a controlled substance.

The issue of use and abuse of prescription pain medications has heated up in Washington D.C., as both Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have scheduled hearings on the subject.

“Both health care professionals, and law enforcement and regulatory personnel, share a responsibility for ensuring that prescription pain medications are available to the patients who need them, and for preventing these drugs from becoming a source of harm or abuse, “ the joint statement said.

“We don’t want to cause patients who have legitimate needs for these medications, to be discouraged or afraid to use them. And we don’t want to restrict doctors and pharmacists from providing these medications when appropriate,” Hutchinson said. “At the same time, we must all take reasonable steps to ensure that these powerful medications don’t end up in the wrong hands and lead to abuse. We want a balanced approach that addresses the abuse problem without keeping patients from getting the care they need and deserve.”

“The repeated accounts of misuse have skewed peoples’ perceptions about drugs like OxyContin. The reality is that the vast majority of people who are given these medications by doctors will not become addicted,” said Russell Portenoy, M.D., chairman of pain medicine and palliative care at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City. “Unfortunately, some doctors may now be frightened to prescribe these medications, pharmacists may be reluctant to stock them, and patients may refuse to take them because of fear of addiction and the new social stigma.”

The DEA and health groups also called for a renewed focus on educating health professionals, law enforcement, and the public about the appropriate use of opioid pain medications in order to promote both responsible prescribing practices and limit instances of abuse and diversion.

For more information about the press conference and a copy of the consensus statement visit the Last Acts website at www.lastacts.org.

Promoting Pain Relief and Preventing Abuse of Pain Medications: A Critical Balancing Act

As representatives of the health care community and law enforcement, we are working together to prevent abuse of prescription pain medications while ensuring that they remain available for patients in need. Both healthcare professionals, and law enforcement and regulatory personnel, share a responsibility for ensuring that prescription pain medications are available to the patients who need them and for preventing these drugs from becoming a source of harm or abuse. We all must ensure that accurate information about both the legitimate use and the abuse of prescription pain medications is made available. The roles of both health professionals and law enforcement personnel in maintaining this essential balance between patient care and diversion prevention are critical.

OxyContin can be purchased legally with prescription. Abusers also obtain the drug illegally by stealing prescription pads at doctors’ offices and forging prescriptions, stealing it from health care facilities or pharmacies, and doctor shopping (visiting several different doctors, sometimes in several states, and complaining of the same symptoms in order to obtain multiple prescriptions for the drug.

Preventing drug abuse is an important societal goal, but there is consensus, by law enforcement agencies, health care practitioners, and patient advocates alike, that it should not hinder patients’ ability to receive the care they need and deserve.

This consensus statement is necessary based on the following facts: Undertreatment of pain is a serious problem in the United States, including pain among patients with chronic conditions and those who are critically ill or near death. Effective pain management is an integral and important aspect of quality medical care, and pain should be treated aggressively. For many patients, opioid analgesics - when used as recommended by established pain management guidelines - are the most effective way to treat their pain, and often the only treatment option that provides significant relief.

Because opioids are one of several types of controlled substances that have potential for abuse, they are carefully regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and other state agencies. For example, a physician must be licensed by State medical authorities and registered with the DEA before prescribing a controlled substance. In spite of regulatory controls, drug abusers obtain these and other prescription medications by diverting them from legitimate channels in several ways, including fraud, theft, forged prescriptions, and via unscrupulous health professionals. Drug abuse is a serious problem. Those who legally manufacture, distribute, prescribe and dispense controlled substances must be mindful of and have respect for their inherent abuse potential. Focusing only on the abuse potential of a drug, however, could erroneously lead to the conclusion that these medications should be avoided when medically indicated- generating a sense of fear rather than respect for their legitimate properties.

Helping doctors, nurses, pharmacists, other healthcare professionals, law enforcement personnel and the general public become more aware of both the use and abuse of pain medications will enable all of us to make proper and wise decisions regarding the treatment of pain.


photo of Administrator HutchinsonASA HUTCHINSON, J.D.
Asa Hutchinson has served as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration since August 8, 2001. While serving his third term in the U .S. Congress, he was tapped by President George W. Bush to join the Administration and confirmed with a bipartisan vote of 98-1 in the United States Senate. Asa Hutchinson practiced law in rural Arkansas for 21 years before being elected to Congress in 1995. During that time, he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as U.S. Attorney for Western Arkansas. Mr. Hutchinson was, at age 31, the youngest U.S. Attorney in the nation. While in Congress, Mr. Hutchinson continued his leadership in the fight against drugs by serving on the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Committee on Intelligence. He served on the Speaker’s Task Force for a Drug-Free America charged with finding new approaches to reduce drug use among the nation’s youth. As head of the DEA, Mr. Hutchinson has concentrated on effective enforcement strategies while recognizing the need for increased treatment and education programs.

Karen Orloff Kaplan, M.P .H., Sc.D., is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Partnership for Caring: America’s Voices for the Dying (PFC). She also serves as the National Program Director for Last Acts, a communications campaign to improve end-of-life care sponsored by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Dr. Kaplan has special expertise in health and aging issues, and in developing health and social policy. Prior to her appointment as President and CEO of PFC, Dr. Kaplan served as Executive Director of Choice In Dying, Inc., a 60 year old not for profit organization known for developing living wills and for its advocacy for dying people and their loved ones. Before CID, she was the founding Executive Director of the National Center for Social Policy and Practice, the research and policy arm of the 140,000-member National Association of Social Workers. Dr. Kaplan received her Doctorate in Science and Masters in Public Health degrees from the School of Hygiene and Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University. She received her Masters in Social Work from Ohio State University.

Russell Portenoy is Chairman of the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center, and Professor of Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He is past president of the American Pain Society, current Secretary of the International Association for the Study of Pain, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. He has been an active clinical investigator in the field of opioid pharmacology and pain epidemiology, and has published numerous articles related to the use of opioids in nonmalignant pain and the interface between pain and chemical dependency. He is author or editor of 12 books and more than 350 papers devoted to the field of pain management.

Thomas E. Menighan, APhA President, is CEO of SyrnRx, Inc., a start-up company providing web-based technologies to pharmacies. As a founder and owner of Pharmacy Associates, Inc. (Option Care WV), he and his partners provide integrated infusion, respiratory, biotech, dietary and nursing services. A 20-year Medicine Shoppe owner and former APhA Trustee, he worked for APhA (1987-1992) as Senior Director and managed State Affairs, Membership, APhA/SmithKline Beecham Community Pharmacy Management Program, Public Relations, and business development. Menighan served (’92-93) as former executive of PharMark, a DUR company; Past President of West Virginia Pharmacists Association and the West Virginia Pharmacy Services Administration Organization. He received his Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and his Masters in Business Administration from Averett College. Awards include Preceptor of the Year, Bowl of Hygeia, Beal Award, Outstanding Alumni, and Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist. Menighan is on WVU’s Visiting Committee and active in APhA - Academy of Pharmacy Practice and Management, and the National Council for State Pharmacy Association Executives.

Mary Vargas is an attorney with the National Association of the Deaf Law Center. She litigates on behalf of individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing in cases alleging discrimination on the basis of disability pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and state anti-discrimination laws. She focuses on education law, access to healthcare, access to courts, access to public services, and employment law. She received her JD from the University of Connecticut in 1998. Ms. Vargas has been a chronic pain patient since July of 1996 when she was injured in a car accident.


The physician members of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) provide comprehensive, coordinated and continuing care to all members of the family and serve as the patient’s advocate in the changing health care system. Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents more than 93,100 family physicians, family practice residents and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical specialty society devoted solely to primary care. AAFP is located on the web at www.aafp.org.

Media Contact: Maureen Maxwell
Phone: (202) 232-9033 or (888) 794-7481 Email: mmaxwell@aafu.org

AAHPM is an organization of physicians and other medical professionals dedicated to excellence in palliative medicine and the prevention and relief of suffering among patients and families by providing education and clinical practice standards; fostering research; facilitating personal and professional development of its members; and by public policy advocacy. AAHPM, with nearly 1,500 members, was established in 1988 and brings together physicians and other healthcare professionals who are interested in and/or involved in the hospice and palliative care approach to patient care and who are committed to the improvement of care for the dying. AAHPM is located on the web at www.aahpm.org.

Media Contact: Richard G. Muir, Executive Director Phone: (847) 375-4761
Email: dmuir@amctec.com

The American Academy of Pain Medicine is the primary organization for physicians practicing the specialty of Pain Medicine in the United States. The mission of the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) to promote quality care of patients with pain as a symptom of disease (eudynia) and primary pain diseases (maldynia) through research, education, and advocacy, and through the advancement of the specialty of Pain Medicine. The American Academy of Pain Medicine, with 1200 physician members, is the only pain organization with representation in the American Medical Association (AMA) House of Delegates. AAPM is located on the web at www.painmed.org.

Media Contact: Kris Haskin
Phone: (847) 375-4731
Email: KHaskin@amctec.com

The American Alliance of Cancer Pain Initiatives’ (AACPI) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting cancer pain relief nationwide by supporting the efforts of state and regional Pain Initiatives. Pain Initiatives are voluntary, grassroots organizations of health care professionals, educators, and patient advocates. Pain Initiatives provide education, training, and information to health care providers, cancer patients and their families. AACPI is located on the web at www.aacpi.org.

Media Contact: Matt Bromley
Phone: (608) 265-8655
Email: mbromley@aacpi.org

The American Cancer Society is the largest nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy and service. For information about cancer, call toll free anytime 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit the American Cancer Society website at www.cancer.org.

Media contact: Rachel Tyree
Phone: (202) 661-5710
Email: rachel.tyree@cancer.org

The American Medical Association was founded in 1847 to “promote the science and art of medicine and the betterment of public health. “ The AMA is the largest association of physicians in the United States, with more than 290,000 members. For more than 150 years the physicians of the AMA have guided and guarded American medicine. The AMA serves as the nation’s preeminent voice for patients, physicians and the medical profession. The AMA is located on the web at www.ama-assn.org.

Media Contact: Ross Fraser
Phone: (312) 464-4443
Email: ross_fraser@.ama-assn.org

APF is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization serving people with pain. Our mission is to improve the quality of their lives by raising public awareness, providing practical information, promoting research, and advocating to remove barriers and increase access to effective pain management. Founded in 1997 by three past presidents of the American Pain Society, APF offers a comprehensive consumer-focused website that includes information about treatment options, news stories, legislative updates, and links to over 200 websites. APF also serves as a media resource. We provide journalists with: the latest facts and information about pain and story ideas.

ASLME provides a forum for high-quality debate, scholarship, and critical thought for the community of professionals at the intersection of law, health care, and ethics. The Society was founded in 1911. A nonprofit educational organization, ASLME’s membership includes attorneys, physicians, ethicists, nurses, allied health professionals, hospital administrators, risk managers, social workers, academics, and students who come together to examine the crucial questions of our times. ASLME has engaged in and helped shaped the dialogue at the national level, dealing with such varied issues as managed care decision making and utilization, medical record privacy, pediatric controversies, end-of-life decision making, implications of the human genome project, and pain undertreatment. ASLME is located on the web at www.aslme.org.

Media Contact: Ben Moulton, Executive Director Phone: ( 617) 262-4990
Email: bmoulton@aslme.org

The American Society of Pain Management Nurses (ASPMN) is an organization of professional nurses dedicated to promoting and providing optimal care of patients with pain, including management of its sequelae. This is accomplished through education, standards, advocacy and research. ASPMN is located on the web at www.aspmn.org.

Media Contact: Kelieta Stephens Phone: (888) 342- 7766
Email: klstephens@puetzamc.com

The American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine is entering its 27th year of providing high quality educational activities for physicians interested in regional anesthesia and/or pain medicine. ASRA-PM has 7,000 members from around the world with the majority from the U.S. More information about the society is available at www.asra.com or by contacting asra@societyhq.com

Media Contact: Stewart A. Hinckley, Executive Director Phone: (804) 282-0010, Ext. 307 Email: stewart@societyhq.com

Community-State Partnerships to Improve End-of-Life Care supports statewide coalitions working to make high quality and compassionate care for dying patients the norm, not the exception. A grant program funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Community-State Partnerships is based on the belief that the actions and decisions of individual patients, families and health care professionals regarding end-of-life care can be greatly enhanced if they take place within a supportive cultural, clinical and policy environment. CSPI is located on the web at www.midbio.org.

Media Contact: Carolen Collins Phone: (816) 842-7110 Email: ccollins@midbio.org

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the primary agency responsible for enforcing the Controlled Substances Act. The DEA’s mission is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the U.S. and to bring to the criminal and civil justice system organizations and individuals engaged in illicit drug trafficking. The Controlled Substances Act also charges the DEA with the prevention, detection, and investigation of the diversion of controlled substances from legitimate channels, while at the same time ensuring that adequate supplies are available to meet legitimate domestic medical, scientific, and industrial needs. DEA is located on the web at www.dea.gov.

Media Contact: Michael L. Chapman, Chief, Public Affairs, Phone: (202) 307-7977

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and with Rosalynn Carter as its Honorary Chair, Last Acts® is a multifaceted campaign to raise awareness about end-of-life issues among health professionals and the public and to engage them in improving care and caring near the end of life. At the heart of the campaign is a coalition of more than 800 national and local professional and consumer organizations -Partners -that share a commitment to improving care for dying people and their families. Last Acts speeds the entry of new knowledge into the field, and serves as a neutral forum for discussion of important issues and a catalyst that both informs and promotes change at every level of society Last Acts® is located on the web at www.lastacts.org.

Media Contact: Mollie Katz
Phone: (301) 652-1558
Email: mkatz@burnesscommunications.com

The Midwest Bioethics Center provides leadership and educational programs to healthcare professionals, policymakers and consumers about ethical issues and moral dilemmas in modern healthcare. Established in 1984 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization, the center was founded to create and sustain an environment in which decisions related to human health are based on respect for persons and informed by an understanding of ethics. Midwest Bioethics Center is located on the web at www.midbio.org.

Media Contact: Carolen Collins Phone: (816) 842-7110 Email: ccollins@midbio.org

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. is a non-profit association of over 3500 members, which assists lawyers, bar organizations and others who work with older clients and their families. Established in 1987, the Academy provides a resource of information, education, networking and assistance to those who must deal with the many specialized issues involved with legal services to the elderly and disabled. NAELA is located on the web at www.naela.org.

Media Contact: Jihane Rohrbacker Phone: (520) 881-4005 Email: jkr@naela.com

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is the largest nonprofit membership organization for hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end-of-life care, expanding access to hospice and palliative care, and profoundly enhancing quality of life for the dying and their loved ones. NHPCO is located on the web at www.nhpco.org.

Media Contact: John Millett
Phone: (703) 837-3139
Email: jmillett@nhpco.org

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) is the largest professional membership oncology association in the world. ONS is a national organization of more than 29,000 registered nurses and other health care professionals dedicated to promoting excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, ONS provides nurses and healthcare professionals with access to the highest quality programs, resources, research opportunities, and peer networks. ONS is located on the web at www.ons.org.

Media Contact: Hank Walshak
Phone: (412) 921-7373, Ext. 483 Email: hwalshak@ons.org

Partnership for Caring: America’s Voices for the Dying is a national nonprofit organization that partners individuals an over the country and organizations in a powerful collaboration to improve care and caring near the end of life. Among other services, Partnership for Caring operates the only national crisis and informational hotline dealing with end-of-life issues and provides state-specific living wills and medical powers of attorney. Partnership for Caring unites the many voices of its partners and collaborators to demand that society improve how it cares for dying people and their loved ones. Partnership for Caring is located on the web at www.partnership.org.

Media Contact: M. Garey Bakes Phone: (202) 296-8071
Email: eakes@partnership.org

The Pain & Policy Studies Group is a university-based academic research, education, and communications program located in the Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Our vision is that pain management will be adequately available when and where it is needed so that people who suffer pain from cancer, AIDS, surgery, accidents, and chronic conditions will have relief from their pain, improved functioning, and a better quality of life. Our mission is to promote “balance” in national and state policies to ensure adequate availability of opioid analgesics and their appropriate medical use for patient care while addressing diversion and abuse. PPSG is located on the web at www.medsch.wisc.edu/painpolicy.

Media contact: David B. Joranson, Director Phone: (608) 263-7662
Email: joranson@facstaff.wisc.edu

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