Mario Nacinovich, Managing Partner of AXON leading an esteemed panel at MedTech 2016 addressing patient needs in hopes of ending the opioid epidemic in New York State (Left to right: Mario R. Nacinovich, Jr. – Moderator, Managing Partner, AXON; Scott Kelley, MD – Panelist, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Flexion Therapeutics; Charles Argoff, MD – Panelist, Professor of Neurology; Director, Comprehensive Pain Center, Albany Medical College, Albany Medical Center; Amy Goldstein – Panelist, Director, State Pain Policy Advocacy Network)

In 2016, AXON New York focused some of our pro bono work on an issue that is affecting every community in New York State – the debilitating affliction and loss attributed to the misuse and abuse with prescription opioids. Overdose deaths in New York related to prescription opioids reached new heights in 2014, exceeding nearly four times the level it was in 2005. The increase was more than almost any other state for which such data were available. With New York State, local officials and organizations as well as individuals in the private sector all working hard to address the alarming realities of prescription opioid addiction, AXON decided to do our part.

Our staff leveraged our vast expertise and current work in this area by supporting awareness and educational efforts with two organizations present in New York – the Metro chapter of the American Medical Writers Association and the MedTech Association.

Feeling the(ir) Pain: Understanding Patient Needs as a Crucial Way Forward in Ending the Opioid Epidemic presentation

We developed and supported “Feeling the(ir) Pain: Understanding Patient Needs as a Crucial Way Forward in Ending the Opioid Epidemic” at the largest gathering of executives and senior leaders from New York State’s bio-science and medical technology (Bio/Med) industry in Albany, NY, 26-28 September 2016. The presentation focused on epidemic opioid overuse and how it has become a topic of central importance in media and in government, and how this has provoked federal, state, and local government responses to try and stop opioid abuse and overdose.

Our team thought it was important to present both sides of the story here as opioids remain the only option for restoring function in many patients with chronic pain. Considering restrictions on the availability of these drugs are often designed and implemented with little insight from patients and healthcare practitioners about how their lives will be affected we brought together panelists for a rousing discussion to examine New York State’s efforts to manage the opioid epidemic.

Discussion was tailored to focus on the patient needs that go unmet, and the gaps where the right new technology (e.g. abuse deterrent technologies and patient monitoring) could help strike the right balance between therapy and addiction prevention.

Writing in the Realm of the Opioid Epidemic event

In collaboration with the Metro chapter of the American Medical Writers Association, our team developed a dinner and networking reception. The education-portion of the evening was focused on raising awareness and support for the ongoing needs of those in our own profession working to understand the aspects of the opioid epidemic.

We hosted the event in the 150-seat auditorium at our offices on October 26th. With support from two writers and a member of the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, the panel navigated topics such as, how word usage can affect the perception of medical writing on the opioid abuse epidemic. Using case studies, examples, and published best practices we illustrated how medical writers can influence the conversation by choosing words that are approachable and specific to the goals of their deliverables.

The faculty examined how public sector representatives communicate about the opioid abuse epidemic, and the general priorities of focus for state authorities looking to intervene and educate to improve outcomes. The audience was also provided examples of ways that New York State is trying to provide innovative programming, public outreach, and tangible healthcare interventions to respond to the threat of opioid abuse. There was also a look back at the historical perspective on opioid analgesia, and the development, marketing, and communications decisions that have led to the current state of affairs.

This provocative look told the unfortunate tale of how large pharmaceutical companies tailored their marketing to federal pain treatment initiatives in a way that has caused opioid prescriptions to skyrocket over the past few decades. One of the many highlights of the evening included the engagement of many attendees who shared stories about family or friends who had been put at risk by opioid medications, and posed questions about how the interventions discussed could have helped their personal connections to experience better outcomes.

Our Commitment

While there is no doubt there is much more be done to bring hope and long-term recovery to the many individuals and families affected by opioid addiction, in 2016 our AXON New York team made its mark in a small way with our pro bono efforts.

While we will continue to work diligently with our clients that are dedicated to support abuse-deterrent formulations of these opioids for the patients in need, we will also continue to conduct pro bono work to identify and implement effective awareness and education solutions as our scientific understanding of this insidious epidemic continues to affect our families, friends, and neighbors in New York.