DEA Head Stresses Legitimate Need for Pain Medication

December 1, 2001

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

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Administrator AsaHutchinson made an unusual appearance at the National Press Club on October 23to call for a balanced policy on prescription pain medications such as oxycodone(OxyContin and various other products). 

Hutchinson appeared at a pressconference organized by Last Acts, a national campaign to improve care near theend of life, to release a joint statement with 21 leading health organizations,including the American Cancer Society and the American Alliance of Cancer PainInitiatives. Reports of abuse of the pain medication oxycodone have receivedwide attention in the local and national media recently, and the DEA has madeover 100 related arrests. Hutchinson was trying to relay the message thatalthough the DEA will continue its efforts to prevent abuse and illegaldiversion of the drug, they don’t want to restrict physicians from prescribingthese medications when appropriate. 

"We want doctors to understand thatthey 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 andpalliative care at Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, said he hoped the eventwould help physicians view the DEA with more understanding and less fear. Herelated that a chairman of another department at his hospital peremptorily sentan e-mail around telling the institution that he was no longer going to permithis house staff to prescribe oxycodone because "it was too hot."