On Wednesday, July 22 Axios co-founder Mike Allen and health care reporter Caitlin Owens hosted the first of a two-part series on how the coronavirus pandemic is changing health care access for those dealing with chronic pain, featuring Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.), Dr. Tuhina Neogi, Chief of Rheumatology at the Boston University School of Medicine and Randall Rutta, CEO of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association.

Rep. Kuster discussed legislation on the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine and current progress being made in clinical trials.

  • On obstacles to keeping the public safe: "One of the big challenges we faced was the lack of leadership at the federal level from the White House as states were scrambling to find their own testing supplies and the PPE that was needed for frontline workers."
  • On progress made in vaccine trials for the coronavirus: "I'm an optimist, [and] I'm hoping certainly by early next year we will be administering the vaccine for COVID-19 here in America."

Dr. Neogi spoke about how to provide quality elective care during the current pandemic and highlighted how communities of color have been disproportionately affected by chronic pain.

  • On the risks patients with chronic pain have had to weigh during the pandemic: "All in-person visits were really limited to very urgent needs. Chronic pain patients have to decide if they wanted to come into a building where they might be exposed [to the virus] versus trying to manage their pain on their own."
  • On systemic inequities in health care: "So many people from communities of color are first line workers, so they don't have the ability to work remotely from home...Historically, people of color have had their chronic pain less aggressively managed than people of white backgrounds."

Randall Rutta discussed changing the framework for how to manage chronic pain and the challenges people have experienced in trying to receive care.

  • How the pandemic has impacted people with chronic pain: "Getting the care that they need is totally disrupted...They've got to be careful. They can't go out in society the way the rest of us can. With COVID-19, the threat of infection for them is very real."
  • On a new framework for treating chronic pain: "The [new] framework has to say, how can we help support you? What treatments might be available to you? ... Looking for the kinds of medicines that are not addictive and that will not have the kind of side effects we've seen in the past."

Thank you Pfizer and Eli Lilly for sponsoring this event.

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