New Report: Alaska Gets B+ in Balanced Pain Management Policies for Cancer, Other Chronic Diseases

Alaska One of Seven States to Improve Pain Policies Since 2013

August 4, 2016

Anchorage, AKAugust 4, 2016 – Alaska is doing well but needs to improve its policies to make pain treatment, including use of pain medications like opioids, available to cancer patients and others with serious illnesses, according to a new report funded by the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). Alaska is one of just seven states to improve its pain policies since 2013.

The report, Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card (CY 2015), gave Alaska a B+ for the quality and balance of its policies to make pain treatment and care accessible to patients. 

To prepare the findings, researchers evaluated state laws and regulatory policies to determine if they enhanced or inhibited pain management. States were assigned “A” to “F” grades based on how these policies can potentially influence pain treatment and care. Current grades were compared to grades from 2013 and prior years to identify changes, and Alaska was one of seven states to show a positive change. Six states received worse grades than two years ago.

States like Alaska with improved grades either adopted policies to encourage appropriate pain management or repealed restrictive or ambiguous policy language. The declining grades likely resulted from well-intended policies to rein in opioid misuse that failed to consider unintended consequences for cancer patients and others with chronic diseases. 

“During cancer treatment, people often experience serious, chronic pain. Pain doesn’t always end when they complete treatment and can be an indefinite side effect. It’s critical that Alaska’s pain policies remain balanced and don’t interfere with pain relief for those who need it,” said ACS CAN Alaska Government Relations Director Emily Nenon. “While ACS CAN is deeply concerned about opioid misuse, it’s important that lawmakers establish systems to lessen drug abuse that also take into account science and medicine to ensure cancer patients have appropriate, necessary pain relief.”

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, but 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.

View the complete report at

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

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Media Contacts

Emily Nenon
Government Relations Director
Noe Baker
Senior Specialist, Media Advocacy - Western Region