NASHVILLE, Tenn. - As the efforts continue to help fight the rampant opioid problems plaguing the country, chronic pain patients find themselves in the middle.
On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hosted a public meeting in Silver Springs, Maryland to better understand the impacts of chronic pain, treatment approaches for chronic pain and challenges to access treatments.
Hundreds of chronic pain patients and representatives traveled from across the country to be a part of the event, which accepted interactive feedback and questions from patients.
Prior to the event, the FDA also asked for comments from patients.
Terri Lewis, a rehabilitation clinical educator and patient advocated, traveled from Putnam County on behalf of hundreds of local chronic pain patients.
She said there were about 300 people who attended, majority of whom lived outside of the Washington D.C. area with the average age between 40 and 50 years old.
"It was very emotional, there were many people here who had a lot of things to say," Lewis said via phone. "Some came with family members."
Attending the meeting was also a personal for Lewis. Her family members have stricken with chronic pain including her young adult son.
Early in the day, there was a specific topic that became a priority among the guests.
"The theme that emerged was the disconnect between the conversation about addiction and the erroneous focus on people who have multiple chronic health conditions being tagged as addicts, and that's creating a tremendous burden to care," Lewis recalled.
Lewis is also worried about the current climate in Tennessee after the abrupt decision to close several Comprehensive Pain Specialist clinics across the state.
Patients are left figuring out what to do next, and tp find doctors who would treat them, let alone accept their insurance like TennCare.
"There is no system of care to hand these people back to. We either administratively
and from a public health perspective lift the rules that we have imposed on our health care system in Tennessee to get people back in care or we make a decision to abandon them, and there doesn't seem to be a happy medium there right now," Lewis added.
She stated that federal and state guidelines and physician prosecutions are leading to patient abandonment, fear of treating people with multiple chronic conditions and under treatment or wrong care for disorders.
"We don't have a plan and we need a plan," Lewis stressed.
Patients like Kristal Woods was affected by the closure of CPS clinics. She was told by someone at her CPS clinic to contact her insurance and find a different doctor.
The closures comes months after the company's former CEO was indicted on an alleged Medicare scheme.
"I was completely terrified. I said it's going to be devastating," Woods said.
Woods had been dealing with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome for years. It has confined her to a wheelchair because of the pain to her joints.
Despite being left abandoned by her clinic, Woods managed to quickly find another provider who accepted her insurance.
However, she knows not every will be so lucky.
"People are literally going to die if they don't have a lot of these pain medications. If they are taken off of them cold turkey, they are going to die and that's how deadly these medications are," Woods emphasized.