Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator Asa
Hutchinson made an unusual appearance at the National Press Club on October 23
to call for a balanced policy on prescription pain medications such as oxycodone
(OxyContin and various other products).
Hutchinson appeared at a press
conference organized by Last Acts, a national campaign to improve care near the
end of life, to release a joint statement with 21 leading health organizations,
including the American Cancer Society and the American Alliance of Cancer Pain
Initiatives. Reports of abuse of the pain medication oxycodone have received
wide attention in the local and national media recently, and the DEA has made
over 100 related arrests. Hutchinson was trying to relay the message that
although the DEA will continue its efforts to prevent abuse and illegal
diversion of the drug, they don’t want to restrict physicians from prescribing
these medications when appropriate.
"We want doctors to understand that
they have legitimate responsibility in treating pain, and we respect that,"
said Hutchinson. "They have to use their good judgment."
Russell Portenoy, MD, chairman of the department of pain medicine and
palliative care at Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, said he hoped the event
would help physicians view the DEA with more understanding and less fear. He
related that a chairman of another department at his hospital peremptorily sent
an e-mail around telling the institution that he was no longer going to permit
his house staff to prescribe oxycodone because "it was too hot."