Senate Committee Highlights Importance of Pain Care for Patients

HELP Committee Hearing Spotlights Institute of Medicine Report on the Status of Pain in America

February 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 14, 2012 – The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing today on an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report detailing the status of pain care management and research in the United States. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and its partner organizations urged the committee to hold the hearing to help educate Members of Congress about issues critical to cancer patients and families that were raised in the report, Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Treatment, and Research, which was released in June 2011.

The report includes findings about the adequacy of pain assessment, treatment and management in the United States. The report also identifies barriers to appropriate pain care and makes recommendations designed to reduce barriers to care and improve training, research, education and clinical care. Lead witnesses discussing the findings at the hearing included Dr. Larry Taback, principal deputy director of the National Institutes of Health, and Dr. Phil Pizzo, co-chair of the IOM’s Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care and Education.

“Barriers to adequate pain care and symptom management cause needless suffering among millions of Americans fighting cancer or other serious conditions every day,” said John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer of ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “We must ensure that patients are empowered to focus on fighting disease, completing their treatments and enjoying time with their families without suffering unnecessary and relentless pain.”

ACS CAN is a long-time advocate for research to better understand the difficulty that chronically ill patients have in accessing appropriate pain relief in this country. In 2006, ACS CAN, along with the National Pain Care Forum, drafted the National Pain Care Policy Act that garnered bipartisan support in the House and the Senate. Three of the bill’s four provisions, including the one instructing the IOM to prepare the report, were subsequently enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act.

“Members of Congress have shown bipartisan support for addressing the epidemic of chronic pain in this country,” said Christopher W. Hansen, president of ACS CAN. “The IOM’s policy recommendations move us closer to policy change to ensure that cancer patients, survivors and others with chronic diseases have access to adequate pain care.”

In addition to the Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Treatment, and Research report, key provisions of existing federal law also call for the establishment of an Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee and an Education and Training Grant Program. Members of the Interagency Committee were named earlier this week, a positive sign that these critical provisions for cancer patients and their families are moving forward.

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

Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]

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