Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., today convened a hearing on “Managing Pain During the Opioid Crisis” to “better understand causes of pain, how we can improve care for patients with pain, and where we are on developing new medicines and ways to treat pain.” Testifying were Helena Gazelka, M.D., director of inpatient pain services and chair of the opioid stewardship program at Mayo Clinic; Cindy Steinberg, national director of policy and advocacy for the U.S. Pain Foundation; Andrew Coop, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; and Anuradha Rao-Patel, M.D., lead medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Chairman Alexander noted the importance of increasing research into alternatives to opioids. Ranking Member Patty Murray, D-Wash., emphasized more education for prescribers; insurance reimbursement for non-addictive pain treatments; and the need to better understand and address gender, racial and ethnic disparities in how patients are treated for pain. Several committee members, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, agreed that more frequent consultation between primary care physicians who prescribe opioids and pain specialists would improve care. Acknowledging challenges facing rural areas, Sens. Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, expressed support for the expanding the use of e-consults, which will require more broadband access.

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