New Report Grades States on their Pain Management Policies


Pain is the most common reason Americans access the health care system, and it is the leading contributor to U.S. health care costs, exceeding $500 billion dollars, according to the Institute of Medicine. An estimated 100 million American who are affected by chronic diseases and conditions suffer from pain, including pain associated with cancer. Many conditions can be relieved with proper treatment, but patients often face significant barriers to the proper assessment, diagnosis and treatment of pain. Pain left untreated can devastate a person’s quality of life, affecting all aspects of daily functioning, including sleep, work and relationships.

Today, the Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG) released a report revealing that a growing number of states are enacting policy measures that promote the delivery of effective pain management. For nearly ten years, states have made considerable progress in enacting policies that enhance access to pain care, including the use of pain medications, and minimize potential barriers to treatment.

The report, Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card, shows the extent that state policies can support pain management and patient care. PPSG researchers evaluated the content of state laws and regulatory policies to determine whether they could enhance or impede pain management.

With funding from the LIVESTRONG Foundation, American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Action Network (ACS CAN), PPSG prepared the report by assigning each state a grade from ‘A’ to ‘F’, which stands for the quality of the state’s policies that can influence patient pain care. The grades released today are compared to their grades from 2006, 2007 and 2008 to determine changes over time.

The report is consistent with results over the past decade that show continued improvement in state pain management policies. Between 2008 and 2012, a total of 41 states either changed or adopted new regulations to improve access to pain care management. The report also found the number of states that received an ‘A’ grade increased from six in 2008 to 13 in 2012. These 13 states represent 20 percent of the total U.S. population. No state’s grade has decreased since 2006, and as of 2008, 20 states have improved their grade. Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Wyoming showed the largest grade improvement between 2008 and 2012.

“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.”

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 (Fourth Edition) is available at the University of Wisconsin’s Pain & Policy Studies Group website.

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