ASCO: Exempt Cancer Patients From Opioid Rules

ASCO: Exempt Cancer Patients From Opioid Rules

Regulations designed to curb opioid abuse and addiction should “largely exempt cancer patients,” according to a policy statement from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Characterizing cancer patients as a “special population, ASCO said a broad exemption from regulations that limit access to or doses of prescription opioids is justified because of the “unique nature of their disease, its treatment, and potentially life-long adverse health effects from having had cancer.”

No, cancer patients aren’t “special” – they are just the same as any other patients with chronic pain: there is NO DIFFERENCE between cancer and non-cancer pain.  

In announcing the policy statement, ASCO officials expressed the organization’s support for federal efforts to prevent prescription drug abuse but also expressed a commitment to protect cancer patients’ access to “appropriate medical opioid therapy.”

Anyone with chronic pain should have access to “appropriate medical opioid therapy”, not just cancer patients.

Aside from the “special population” perspective, the “ASCO Policy Statement on Opioid Therapy: Protecting Access to Treatment for Cancer-Related Pain” incorporated the following principles

During the public comment period late last year, American Cancer Society (ACS) representatives told the CDC that “the proposed guidelines have the potential to significantly limit cancer patient access to needed pain medicines.”

Cancer patients, many of whom will suffer lifelong pain from the brutal “cure” of their cancer are the same as any other patient suffering lifelong chronic pain, even if it can’t be traced back to cancer or its treatment.

However, in stating its unequivocal opposition to the CDC guideline, the ACS outlined concerns that those went far beyond those expressed publicly by ASCO.

“We have concerns about

  1. the lack of evidence on which the guidelines were based,
  2. the methodology used to develop the guidelines, and
  3. the transparency of the entire process.”

Our concerns are so serious that we cannot endorse the proposed guidelines in any way and suggest suspending the process until the methodological flaws are corrected and more evidence is available to support prescribing recommendations.”

This is all equally true for any group supporting people who are in chronic pain, but in the media, cancer patients are elevated as “special” and above the draconian limits set for the treatment of pain in America.

The ACS subsequently joined other groups and individuals in openly questioning the guideline-development process CDC used for the opioid recommendations, alleging that the CDC “failed to disclose the names, affiliations, and conflicts of interest of the individuals who participated in the construction of these guidelines.”

The full text of the ASCO policy statement is available on the organization’s website

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