It took me a while to put my finger on it. The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit here in Orlando is well attended and highly informative, yet something was missing. Something important. I couldn't quite get it. And then it hit me.

That something was you. Your co-workers. Your company. Virtually the entire workers' compensation industry. That is what is really missing at this summit.

I understand attendance here is well over 850 people, and I hardly see a familiar face. I see many people from a variety of government agencies. I see educators, criminal investigators, pharmacy representatives and more. Yet the workers' compensation industry is only represented by a smattering of mid level managers and a few others. Prium and EK Health are here, as is Joe Paduda and CompPharma. There are a few carrier medical directors, and some PBM presenters. But for the industry, that seems to be the bulk of it. I haven't even seen traditional workers' comp media here.

I don't get it. 

Had the industry attended, they would have heard Dr. Nora D. Volkow, the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, talk about the challenge of treating those in chronic pain without the use of opioids. It would have learned that only marijuana use exceeds that of opioid abuse, and that opioid abuse is far greater than illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. It would know that opioids now act as gateway drugs, as 95% of heroin users started with opioid analgesics. It would know that there were 219 million prescriptions written for opioids alone in 2011, up from 76 million annually just 20 years ago. 

It would have learned that US based medical schools only devote an average of 7 hours class time to pain management principals and techniques, while Canadian schools average 14 hours. It would have been shocked to learn that in comparison, veterinarian schools devote 75 hours to the topic of pain management.

Looks like Fluffy the cat is getting better pain management treatment than your drug addled brother in law.

Had it attended, the industry would know that we have both a present and looming problem with prescription drug abuse. We are paying for it, and have a responsibility to work to fix the problem we helped create.

The event organizers, Operation UNITE, could make minor changes to better attract the industry. The current format is broken into several tracks; Clinical, Pharmacy, Treatment, Education & Advocacy, and Third Party Payers. I think they would be best served to replace that Third Party Payer track with a Workers' Compensation track. They already share a common foundation, and a specific track for an important player like our industry should be included. 

Perhaps if they build it, we will come. We would be advised to tune in and pay attention. Precious lives and resources hang in the balance.

They've done a good job drawing key people to address this conference. Today, in addition to Dr. Volkow, I heard from the Director of the Centers for Disease Control, the Commissioner of the FDA, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, Chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations; and Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. 

This conference has the information, people and influence to make a true difference. All that is missing is you, and our industry.

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