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AAPM President Expresses Disappointment in Senator Wyden’s Letter Discrediting the Work of the HHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force

A statement from the American Academy of Pain Medicine

The American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) President Jianguo Cheng, MD, PhD, issued a response expressing deep disappointment in Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)'s December 18, 2018 letter to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, in an apparent effort to discredit the results of the HHS Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force (PMTF). The PMTF is an important effort authorized by Congress on a bipartisan basis. In his letter, Senator Wyden questions the HHS vetting process of PMTF members, implying that the work of the task force is influenced by pharmaceutical and device industries.

Senator Wyden also mischaracterizes the relationship of AAPM with industry and incorrectly suggests that AAPM is influenced by industry. Dr. Cheng's December 28, 2018 letter explains in detail why this accusation is false. As demonstrated by AAPM's total compliance with requirements set forth by the Accreditation Council of Continuing Medical Education, AAPM has consistently conducted all of its professional functions with integrity and transparency.

Further, Senator Wyden falsely accuses AAPM of "being deeply critical" of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) opioid prescribing for chronic pain guideline, citing a 2016 message written by AAPM Past President Daniel B. Carr, MD. Conversely, AAPM has consistently and publically demonstrated broad support of the CDC opioid guideline, while understanding that the driving force for improving clinical guidelines and advancing patient care is to ask critical scientific and clinical questions to identify gaps and find new solutions through scientific and clinical inquiry and research. To that end, AAPM provided suggestions to improve the guideline and noted concerns with some of the methodology and conclusions drawn from lacking data in response to CDC requests for public commentary. Dr. Carr's message outlined these concerns. Many others have voiced similar concerns. Indeed this is why that Congress asked the PMTF to review the CDC guideline and make recommendations for update and refinement. AAPM was honored to have had several of its leaders and members selected to serve on the PMTF. In his letter, Senator Wyden questions the integrity of many of the HHS-appointed members of the Task Force, including two AAPM members and falsely suggests that Dr. Cheng and Pain Medicine Editor-in-Chief Rollin M. Gallagher, MD MPH had been influenced by pharmaceutical companies.

The HHS PMTF serves to improve the lives of patients in pain while curbing the national opioid crisis, as demonstrated by its comprehensive draft report released December 28, 2018. The task force is comprised of an impressive roster of experts and key opinion leaders from across the country, each of whom underwent the appropriate nominating, vetting, and onboarding processes. This vital work should not be interrupted by false accusations. A more constructive approach would be for the Finance Committee to hold a full, unbiased hearing on the task force's recommendations after they are finalized. This would permit HHS, professional experts, pain patients, and, perhaps, industry representatives, to give a full account of the task force's work, and inform future policy choices of the Committee with respect to these very complicated issues.

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About AAPM
The American Academy of Pain Medicine is the premier medical association for pain physicians and their treatment teams with some 2,000 members. Now in its 35th year of service, the Academy's mission is to advance and promote the full spectrum of multidisciplinary pain care, education, advocacy, and research to improve function and quality of life for people in pain. Information is available on the Academy's website at painmed.org.

January 3, 2019

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