Response to the Surgeon General’s Opioid Pledge: It Misses the Point
Last week, the Academy of Integrative Pain Management (formerly the American Academy of Pain Management) held its 27th Annual Meeting, educating attendees on a broad range of non-pharmaceutical treatments they could use to effectively, safely, and sanely treat patients in pain. Given the national furor over opioid prescribing, the meeting provided timely alternatives for nearly a thousand participants.
In his keynote session, AIPM’s immediate past president, Robert A. Bonakdar, MD FAAFP, Director of Pain Management at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine and Assistant Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine, addressed the evolution of alternative pain treatments used around the world and showed how they may inform and improve access to and quality of US pain care.
In his talk, Dr Bonakdar shared that on the same day he received the Surgeon General’s unprecedented letter to all physicians urging restraint in opioid prescribing, he also received two denials from insurance companies for patients to be treated with biofeedback and acupuncture – two proven-effective therapies.
In an op-ed just published in USA TODAY, Dr Bonakdar expounded further on his keynote remarks stating that, while over-prescribing of opioids and lack of insurance coverage for non-pharmacological treatments are problems, what the Surgeon General really needs to address is more fundamental – in the US, we have difficulty dealing with chronic pain. Period. Dr Bonakdar writes,
“Chronic pain is a complex scenario that not only affects the back or shoulder, but one that over time can shrink the brain while creating or worsening fatigue, insomnia, depression, anxiety, obesity and risk of suicide. The pain transformation called for by the IOM and most recently the National Pain Strategy requires not just a campaign, but an integrative, patient-centered approach to support someone whose entire existence is affected.”
The Academy of Integrative Pain Management has been a leader in advocating this approach to pain care since 1988 by training and educating clinicians. In addition, it is the only organization with three staff working full time on policy and advocacy at the federal, state, and local level to assure patients have access to integrative care that is paid for by insurance companies.
– The Academy of Integrative Pain Management
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