Progress Slows in States Enacting Balanced Patient Pain Policies for Cancer and Other Chronic Diseases

New Report Card Shows Just Seven States Have Improved Pain Policies Since 2013

July 12, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. July 12, 2016 Fewer states are enacting balanced policies that enhance the delivery of effective pain management for patients battling a chronic disease such as cancer, according to a new report issued today by leading researchers and the American Cancer Society (ACS) and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). Nationwide, the findings showed while states have made considerable progress over the last decade in enacting policies that enhance access to pain care for patients with serious illness, this progress has slowed, and in some states reversed, in recent years. The report, Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card (CY 2015), demonstrates the effect that new state policies have on patient access to appropriate pain medications. The University of Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG) prepared the report, which was jointly funded by ACS and ACS CAN. As a nation we must enact sensible policies to curb the growing public health crisis of opioid abuse, while at the same time recognizing the needs of cancer patients and survivors who have debilitating pain and must have access to pain medications, said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN. Legislative initiatives must maintain a balanced, scientific, and medical approach that don 't lead to unintended consequences by compromising access for patients who have legitimate pain. 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 äóÖA ' to äóÖF ' that reflects how its policies influence patient pain care. States ' current grades are then compared to prior years to identify changes. The report analyzed policies in place, but doesn 't account for actual patient experience which may be impacted by growing concerns related to misuse of pain medication. While these are very promising findings, more work remains to ensure these improved state pain policies are put into practice forŒæpatient painŒæcare, said Aaron Gilson, Ph.D., research program manager for the PPSG. "It is also important that new policies don 't impose undueŒætreatmentŒæbarriers that affect important doctor-patient health care decision-making. The 2016 report found while there is some continued improvement in patient access to quality pain treatment, states are beginning to restrict access in response to the opioid epidemic that may be having a collateral impact on the legitimate pain access needs of patients. Only seven states changed or adopted new policies to improve access to pain management between 2013 and 2015, while six received worse grades than two years ago. The report also found the following:

  • The number of states that received an äóÖA ' grade decreased from 15 in 2013 to 13 in 2015. These 13 states represent 19 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • 32 states and the District of Columbia now have a grade above äóÖB ', compared to 18 states in 2008.
  • Six state grades decreased between 2013 and 2015, including Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, and South Dakota.

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. ξThe complete report, Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card (CY 2015) is available at About ACS CAN 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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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Jill Courtney or Alissa Crispino American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Phone: (202) 585-3278 or (202) 661-5772 Email: [email protected] or [email protected]g

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