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Hearing Of The Senate Special Committee On Aging - The War On Drugs Meets The War On Pain: Nursing Home Patients Caught In The Crossfire


Location: Unknown

Good afternoon, and thank you all for being here. Today we will examine the
dispensing of pain medication in nursing homes across the country, a serious issue
that impacts the daily wellbeing and comfort of millions of elderly Americans.

It is safe to say that most laws are created to prevent suffering. In the case of the
U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration's recent crackdown of nursing homes, it
appears that the law exacerbates it. The hours it may take for a nursing home to
fully comply with DEA regulations can feel like an eternity to an elderly nursing
home resident who is waiting for relief from excruciating pain. Our hope for today's
session is that we can find a better strategy that allows the DEA to do its job, and
enables infirm nursing home residents to receive their medication in an expedient

According to several of our panelists and other industry sources, nursing homes and
long-term care facilities have found themselves under heightened scrutiny from the
DEA, a federal agency with the vital job of regulating the use and sales of controlled
substances. The DEA's initiatives often save lives and make a positive impact. The
problem is that while the DEA claims they are working to keep prescription drugs
out of the wrong hands, in reality they are causing widespread confusion, with the
result of interruption and delays in timely access to pain medication for vulnerable

We have heard from many providers in my home state of Wisconsin, who say that
they are faced with the impossible choice of following the letter of the law and
caring for sick residents in the best way they know how. While I support the DEA'S
national drug diversion strategy, which prevents prescribed medications from
reaching those who would abuse them, it seems that their efforts are misplaced
here -- with sick seniors paying the price.

Today we will hear about pain management for the elderly, the role of nurses in
ordering and administering medication, and proposals for possible changes to the
regulatory scheme that governs long-term care facilities and pharmacies. And we
will hear from the DEA, in order to gain a better understanding of their intentions.

I understand that unanimous consent was not given this morning for Committees to
hold regularly scheduled hearings and meetings. We appreciate that some of you
have come a long way today at your own expense to have your voices heard on this
important issue. For that reason, although our Committee will not be holding a
formal hearing this afternoon, we will have a listening session this afternoon so that
we can understand your positions.

Thank you to all of today's participants. We look forward to your statements.

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