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Movement Grows in States to Address Effective Pain Management for Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases

New Report Card Shows 41 States Have Improved Pain Policies Since 2008

June 4, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – A growing number of states are enacting policy measures that promote the delivery of effective pain management, according to a report released today. Over almost a decade, states have made considerable progress in enacting policies that enhance access to pain care, including the use of pain medications, and minimize potential treatment barriers.

The report, Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card (CY 2012), shows the extent that state policies can support pain management and patient care. It was prepared by the University of Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG) and jointly funded by the American Cancer Society, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and the LIVESTRONG Foundation.

PPSG researchers evaluated the content of state laws and regulatory policies to determine whether they could enhance or impede pain management. The report assigns each state a grade from ‘A’ to ‘F’ that reflects the quality of its policies that can influence patient pain care. States’ current grades are then compared to their grades from 2006, 2007 and 2008 to identify changes over time.

The 2013 report found continued improvement in state pain management policies over almost a decade. A total of 41 states changed or adopted new policies to improve access to effective pain management between 2008 and 2012. The policy improvement was largely a result of state health care regulatory boards adopting policies to encourage appropriate pain management, and state legislatures or regulatory agencies repealing restrictive or ambiguous policy language.

The report also found the following:

  • The number of states that received an ‘A’ grade increased from 6 in 2008 to 13 in 2012. These 13 states represent 20 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • 48 states now have a grade above the average (‘C’), compared to 44 states in 2008.
  • 20 states improved their grade since 2008, and no state’s grade has decreased since 2006.
  • Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Wyoming showed the largest grade improvement between 2008 and 2012.

“The results of this research show a very encouraging improvement in state pain policies, but more still needs to be done to make sure these policies are reaching the bedside and addressing patients’ undertreated pain,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “States must effectively inform the medical community about improved pain policies so people with pain can benefit from them. Patients, health organizations, healthcare professionals, regulatory officials, licensing boards and policymakers all have a role to play to promote a balanced approach to pain control policy and practice.”

“Nobody with cancer should have to suffer needlessly due to a lack of medication to regulate their pain,” said Doug Ulman, LIVESTRONG Foundation President and CEO. “It’s imperative that we advocate on the behalf of patients to improve their quality of life and continue this positive trend toward patient-centered pain policies and regulation.”

“It is evident that the state policies we evaluate are imposing significantly fewer barriers on health care decision-making and patient care related to pain issues, especially when compared to almost a decade ago. These are very promising findings,” said Aaron Gilson, PhD, Research Program Manager for the PPSG. “In light of this important progress, however, any continued efforts to enhance pain care through policy adoption must avoid introducing new restrictions or ambiguities.  In this way, the progress that we have seen can be maintained.”

Pain is the most common reason Americans access the health care system, and it is the leading contributor to health care costs. Most painful conditions can be relieved with proper treatment, yet patients often face significant barriers that can prevent proper assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of pain. Untreated pain can devastate a person’s quality of life, affecting all aspects of daily functioning, including sleep, work and relationships.

While there are several effective medications and non-drug therapies available for pain treatment, and an integrative approach to patient care is encouraged, opioid pain medications are often the best treatment for managing serious, persistent pain. But health professionals can be reluctant to prescribe such medications for numerous reasons, including concern about unwarranted sanctions for violating laws governing health care practice. Such policies can unduly restrict healthcare decision-making, contradict current medical knowledge, establish, ambiguous practice standards, and fail to communicate appropriate messages about pain management.

The complete report, Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card (CY 2012) is available at the University of Wisconsin’s Pain & Policy Studies Group website: http://www.painpolicy.wisc.edu/sites/www.painpolicy.wisc.edu/files/prc2012.pdf

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across America. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.

About the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.

About the LIVESTRONG Foundation

The LIVESTRONG Foundation provides free cancer support services to help people cope with the financial, emotional and practical challenges that accompany the disease. Created in 1997 by cancer survivor and philanthropist Lance Armstrong, the Foundation is known for its powerful brand – LIVESTRONG – and for its advocacy on behalf of survivors and their families. With its iconic yellow LIVESTRONG wristband, the Foundation has become a symbol of hope and inspiration around the world. Since its inception, the Foundation has served 2.5 million people affected by the disease and raised more than $500 million to support cancer survivors. One of America’s top cancer non-profit organizations, the Foundation enjoys a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and has been recognized by the National Health Council and the Better Business Bureau for its excellent governance, high standards and transparency. For more information, visit LIVESTRONG.org.

About the Pain & Policy Studies Group

The Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG) is a global research program at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center within the School of Medicine and Public Health. The PPSG mission is to improve global pain relief by achieving balanced access to pain medications in an effort to enhance the quality of life of people living with cancer and other painful diseases. The PPSG’s work, guided by a public health approach, aims to address governmental and regulatory environments governing professional healthcare practice relating to pain management and palliative care. Such efforts are achieved through effective public policy, communications, and outreach efforts. Since its creation in 1996, the PPSG has been the home of a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center.  For more information, visit www.painpolicy.wisc.edu

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Lauren Walens (ACS CAN) or Andrew Tanker (LIVESTRONG)
Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (512) 279-8456
Email: Lauren.Walens@cancer.org or Andrew.Tanker@livestrong.org

For media inquiries, please contact:
Steve Weiss
Phone: (202) 661-5711
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Alissa Crispino
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Lauren Walens
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About ACS CAN

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