Advocates to Congress: Palliative Care is Effective Means to Curb Opioid Problem

ACS CAN and Patient Quality of Life Coalition hold annual lobby day at key point in pain treatment debate

June 20, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Advocates and volunteers from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) will join the Patient Quality of Life Coalition (PQLC) on Capitol Hill today to share their stories with lawmakers as part of the coalition’s annual advocacy day. The PQLC includes over 40 organizations that collectively work to improve the quality of care for patients by supporting public policies that improve and expand access to palliative care and appropriate pain management. Fifteen ACS CAN volunteers from 12 states and the District of Columbia will be participating in the coalition’s advocacy day.

This year, PQLC volunteers will meet with their member of Congress to ask for their support of the Palliative Care Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), legislation that would expand pain and symptom management training for doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others who treat patients with serious illnesses that result in chronic or acute pain. The bill has broad bipartisan support with 274 cosponsors in the House of Representatives and 29 in the Senate. Member groups of the PQLC strongly believe that PCHETA has the potential to complement Congress’ current work in addressing the public health crisis surrounding opioid abuse and ensure an appropriate balance is struck in addressing the crisis without erecting additional barriers to pain care for patients with legitimate needs. In addition to expanding pain and symptom management training for medical professionals, PCHETA would also bolster research efforts to develop new, non-addictive pain treatments within the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Pushing Congress to advance PCHETA is especially timely given current congressional efforts to address the public health crisis that has resulted from the misuse and abuse of opioid medication,” said Keysha Brooks-Coley, vice president of federal advocacy for ACS CAN and chair of the PQLC coalition. “Policy solutions to this crisis must be balanced in a way that won’t unintentionally create barriers to pain care for those living with serious or chronic conditions, including cancer.”

Advocates’ push for PCHETA to be included in any opioid-related package passed by Congress is bolstered by new research showing that, since 2016, patients with serious or chronic conditions have experienced more barriers to accessing their pain care. Nearly half of cancer patients (48 percent) and more than half (56 percent) of those with other serious illnesses surveyed said their doctor indicated treatment options for their pain were limited by laws, guidelines or insurance coverage this year.

“The data released by the PQLC last week clearly shows there is a public desire to address this public health crisis in a balanced manner. We urge Congress to include PCHETA in any final opioid package it approves this year. Doing so will help strike an appropriate balance between curbing abuse and ensuring access to pain care is preserved for patients with legitimate needs,” Brooks-Coley said.


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