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Attorneys General From 30 States Unite To Protest DEA's Disavowal Of Its Pain Management Prescription Guidelines

The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter signed by 30 state attorneys general to the Justice Department to protest the DEA's disavowal of its pain management guidelines, pulled from their website in 2004 (see To Be Or Not To Be -- DEA Pulls Pain Prescription Guidelines From Website, Cites 'Misstatements' -- Says Document Didn't Have Force Of Law Anyway," below). The text of the letter follows. A PDF copy of the NAAG letter is also available.

January 19, 2005

Karen P. Tandy
Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
2401 Jefferson Davis Highway
Alexandria, VA 22301

Dear Ms. Tandy:

We, the undersigned Attorneys General, write to express our concern about recent DEA actions with respect to prescription pain medication policy and to request a joint meeting with you. Having consulted with your Agency about our respective views, we were surprised to learn that DEA has apparently shifted its policy regarding the balancing of legitimate prescription of pain medication with enforcement to prevent diversion, without consulting those of us with similar responsibilities in the states. We are concerned that state and federal policies are diverging with respect to the relative emphasis on ensuring the availability of prescription pain medications to those who need them.

Subsequent to DEA endorsement of the 2001 Joint Consensus Statement supporting balance between the treatment of pain and enforcement against diversion and abuse of prescription pain medications, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) in 2003 adopted a Resolution Calling for a Balanced Approach to Promoting Pain Relief and Preventing Abuse of Pain Medications (copy attached). Both these documents reflected a consensus among law enforcement agencies, health care practitioners, and patient advocates that the prevention of drug abuse is an important societal goal that can and should be pursued without hindering proper patient care.

The Frequently Asked Questions and Answers for Health Care Professionals and Law Enforcement Personnel issued in 2004 appeared to be consistent with these principles, so we were surprised when they were withdrawn. The Interim Policy Statement, “Dispensing of Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain” which was published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2004 emphasizes enforcement, and seems likely to have a chilling effect on physicians engaged in the legitimate practice of medicine. As Attorneys General have worked to remove barriers to quality care for citizens of our states at the end of life, we have learned that adequate pain management is often difficult to obtain because many physicians fear investigations and enforcement actions if they prescribe adequate levels of opioids or have many patients with prescriptions for pain medications. We are working to address these concerns while ensuring that individuals who do divert or abuse drugs are prosecuted. There are many nuances of the interactions of medical practice, end of life concerns, definitions of abuse and addiction, and enforcement considerations that make balance difficult in practice. But we believe this balance is very important to our citizens, who deserve the best pain relief available to alleviate suffering, particularly at the end of life.

We understand that DEA issued a “Solicitation for Comments on Dispensing of Controlled Substances for the Treatment of Pain” in the Federal Register yesterday. We would like to discuss these issues with you to better understand DEA’s position with respect to the practice of medicine for those who need prescription pain medication. We hope that together we can find ways to prevent abuse and diversion without infringing on the legitimate practice of medicine or exerting a chilling effect on the willingness of physicians to treat patients who are in pain. And we hope that state and federal policies will be complementary rather than divergent.

Lynne Ross, Executive Director of NAAG, will contact you soon to arrange a meeting at a mutually agreeable time, hopefully in March when Attorneys General will be in Washington, DC to attend the March 14-16 NAAG Spring Meeting. We hope to meet with you soon.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Attorney General Drew Edmondson
Attorney General of Oklahoma

Attorney General Gregg Renkes
Attorney General of Alaska

Attorney General Mike Beebe
Attorney General of Arkansas

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal
Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker
Attorney General of Georgia

Attorney General Tom Miller
Attorney General of Iowa

Attorney General Gregory D. Stumbo
Attorney General of Kentucky

Attorney General Terry Goddard
Attorney General of Arizona

Attorney General Bill Lockyer
Attorney General of California

Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti
Attorney General of District of Columbia

Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Attorney General of Illinois

Attorney General Phill Kline
Attorney General of Kansas

Attorney General Charles Foti
Attorney General of Louisiana

Attorney General Steven Rowe
Attorney General of Maine

Attorney General Michael A Cox
Attorney General of Michigan

Attorney General Jeremiah Nixon
Attorney General of Missouri

Attorney General Jon Bruning
Attorney General of Nebraska

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem
Attorney General of North Dakota

Attorney General Roberto Sánchez Ramos
Attorney General of Puerto Rico

Attorney General Joseph Curran Jr.
Attorney General of Maryland

Attorney General Mike Hatch
Attorney General of Minnesota

Attorney General Mike McGrath
Attorney General of Montana

Attorney General Patricia Madrid
Attorney General of New Mexico

Attorney General Hardy Myers
Attorney General of Oregon

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch
Attorney General of Rhode Island

Attorney General Henry McMaster
Attorney General of South Carolina

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff
Attorney General of Utah

Attorney General Darrel McGraw
Attorney General of West Virginia

Attorney General Paul Summers
Attorney General of Tennessee

Attorney General William Sorrell
Attorney General of Vermont


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