Senator Collins Welcomes Report on Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic

National Academies Study Provides Recommendations Aimed at Addressing Nation’s Opioid Crisis

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee, welcomed the findings and recommendations of a National Academies of Sciences (NAS) study released yesterday. Titled, “Pain Management and the Opioid Epidemic: Balancing Societal and Individual Benefits and Risks of Prescription,” the report provides background on the opioid epidemic, including trends, risk factors, progress, and future directions in pain and opioid use disorder. It also includes policy-making recommendations going forward.

In 2016, as a part of the newly introduced Opioids Action Plan, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked NAS to reassess its framework for opioid approval and monitoring. The report outlines four strategies to address the opioid epidemic. They are restricting the unlawful supply of opioids, influencing prescribing practices, reducing demand, and reducing harm.

“The analysis and extensive recommendations put forth by the National Academies on the opioid epidemic will help shape public policies,” said Senator Collins. “The report analyzes what we know about the risk of opioid use in seniors, a population that is especially vulnerable to its harmful impacts. It recommends concrete steps to make comprehensive pain management more accessible, which would result in better control of chronic pain for seniors and promote safe and effective pain management. The report also highlights the importance of improving access to drug-take back programs, which I strongly support because they reduce diversion of prescription opioids into the wrong hands.”

Last year, Senator Collins chaired a hearing of the Senate Aging Committee, which explored how the opioid epidemic is affecting older Americans. In 2012, 12.3 million Medicare beneficiaries filled more than 76 million opioid prescriptions. Because seniors are prescribed more opioids than people in any other demographic group, the consequences for providing critical pain relief has unintended side effects. The Committee learned from doctors and experts that the medicine may become a source for a family member experimenting with opioids, or feed an addiction that fuels part of this epidemic.

The report points out the following well-established facts related to seniors and opioid use:

  1. Older adults metabolize differently, and as a result, the same dose of an opioid will have a more potent effect in an older adult compared to a younger adult.
  2. Opioid use increases the risk of falls in seniors.
  3. In seniors with dementia, opioid use exacerbates cognitive symptoms.