More MS news articles for Oct 2001

DEA, Medical Groups Issue Joint Statement on Pain Drugs

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Oct 23 - The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) stressed during a briefing on Tuesday that it recognizes the need for a balanced approach to curbing abuse of pain drugs and that it aims to ensure that legitimate patients are not denied access to needed treatments.

The briefing was held to mark the release of a joint statement by the DEA and 21 health organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Pharmaceutical Association and the American Cancer Society emphasizing the importance of crafting drug abuse prevention programs in such a way that they do not hinder legitimate use of pain drugs.

Some patients and organizations have become worried that increasing concern over abuse of opioid analgesics such as Purdue Pharma's OxyContin (oxycodone) could prompt draconian measures from federal authorities. The joint statement notes that "undertreatment of pain is a serious problem in the United States" and that, for many patients, opioid analgesics are the only option that provides real relief.

"Obviously, there are concerns about abuse," DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson said at the briefing. "But our goal is to achieve a balance in the use of pain medication and its regulation."

Hutchinson called for an enhancement of drug abuse education for patients and professionals as one way to achieve that balance a call echoed in the groups' joint statement. A DEA spokeswoman told Reuters Health that included among the agency's ongoing education and awareness efforts are meetings with the media, community-based organizations and physician groups.

"The DEA's policies and regulations are not at odds with the goals of legitimate pain treatment," Hutchinson said during the briefing. Outlining the agency's initiatives to ensure the proper use and availability of pain medication, he pointed to scheduling, registration of manufacturers, regulation of drug handlers and establishment of quotas.

Abuse of OxyContin has been tied to a number of deaths, but Purdue Pharma has stressed many times that proper use of the drug is not dangerous.

In January, the US Department of Justice issued a report warning that OxyContin abuse is on the rise, adding to worries over the drug. As a result, Purdue Pharma suspended shipments of 160-mg OxyContin tablets, the strongest form of the drug. In addition, the company has added a boxed warning to OxyContin's label to help prevent inappropriate prescriptions, misuse and diversion.

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