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HHS Task Force on Pain Management Releases Final Report

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) convened the Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task Force (Task Force) in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to address acute and chronic pain in light of the ongoing opioid crisis. The Task Force was established to propose updates to best practices and issue recommendations that address gaps or inconsistencies for managing chronic and acute pain. 

The final report issued by the Task Force, which was authorized by the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016, provides the public with an opportunity to comment on any proposed updates and recommendations and develop a strategy for disseminating information about best practices.

People faced with acute and chronic pain in the United States face a crisis because of significant challenges in obtaining adequate care, resulting in profound physical, emotional and societal costs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 million adults in the United States have chronic daily pain, with 19.6 million adults experiencing high-impact chronic pain that interferes with daily life or work activities. The cost of pain nationally is estimated at between $560 billion and $635 billion annually. At the same time, the United States is facing an opioid crisis that, over the past two decades, has resulted in an unprecedented wave of overdose deaths associated with prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids.

Harold Tu, D.M.D., M.D., FACS, Associate Professor and Director of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry (U of M SOD) was appointed a member of the Task Force. Dr. Tu has experience shaping best practices and prescribing protocols for opioids. 

In 2016, U of M SOD became the first dental school in the U.S. to mandate new evidence-based prescribing protocols in its clinics that call for a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug alone or in combination with APAP, such as acetaminophen, as the first-line pain treatment for acute dental pain. Opioids can be used based on established indications and professional clinical judgement. Since implementation, the institution has seen a 70% drop in the number of opioid prescriptions. There has not been a notable increase in the number of patients requesting additional pain medication, which suggests the approach is managing pain effectively.

The Task Force mandate is to identify gaps, inconsistencies and updates and to make recommendations for best practices for managing acute and chronic pain. The 29-member Task Force included federal agency representatives and nonfederal experts and representatives from a broad group of stakeholders. The Task Force considered relevant medical and scientific literature and information provided by government and nongovernment experts in pain management, addiction and mental health as well as representatives from various disciplines. The Task Force also reviewed and considered patient testimonials and public meeting comments, including approximately 6,000 comments from the public submitted during a 90-day public comment period and 3,000 comments from two public meetings.

Courtesy of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Published on September 11, 2019

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