ONS Member Patrick Coyne, MSN, APN, FAAN Testifies Before Congressional Committee on Need for Continued Access to Pain Medication for Patients With Cancer
Thursday, April 14, 2011
The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, of the Energy and Commerce Committee, held its hearing chaired by U.S. Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA).
Entitled “Warning: The Growing Danger of Prescription Drug Diversion,” a series of four panels were brought forward to provide expert information on the state of access to prescription medications. The witnesses included the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Kentucky’s Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott, and several drug abuse awareness coalitions. There were also family members telling tragic stories of their loved ones who succumbed to accidental prescription drug overdoses.
Those real-life anecdotes fueled the discussion, and the Congressional Committee members were interested in how lax oversight allowed the distribution of powerful pain relievers to reach people who were not intended to use those medications. Throughout the questioning, the Chair focused specifically on oxycontin and other well-known drugs.
As an additional voice, ONS member Patrick Coyne, MSN, APN, FAAN, was the final witness and testified on behalf of the broad patient and provider communities regarding pain relief. Coyne is a clinical nurse specialist with more than 25 years of experience in pain management and symptom control, typically in patients with cancer. He is the clinical director of the Thomas Palliative Care Services at the Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.
“It would be naive not to recognize that the problem of opioid diversion is a severe one and can destroy families and communities. More has to be done to treat this significant issue,” Coyne said.
However, he continued, patients in need of comfort during this phase of their treatment would be unduly harmed if over-arching legislation were to be enacted as a reaction. Overall, Coyne left the committee with this thought, “All discussions about the issue of opioid pain medications need a balanced exploration of the risks, but also the benefits.”
His final advice was that “limiting a pain medication, any pain medication, might take a very safe option away from countless patients living with moderate or severe pain. Education of prescribers is clearly needed to better assess pain and implement appropriate treatment options, but limiting options may ruin many individuals’ lives.”
ONS continues to track and advocate for oncology nurses and patients with cancer. Please frequent the Legislative Action Center for the latest information on our public policy efforts.