UPDATE: National Pain Care Legislation Clears Key Hurdle

September 17, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- September 17, 2008 -- Millions of Americans who suffer from pain could soon find relief thanks to legislation that passed another hurdle in the U.S. House of Representatives today. The National Pain Care Policy Act of 2008, which would improve pain care research, education, training and access, passed out of the full Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill could be voted on by the full House before Congress adjourns next week.

Chronic pain affects an estimated 76.2 million Americans — more than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Pain is also the most common reason Americans access the health care system and is a leading contributor to health care costs, accounting for more than $100 billion a year in expenses and lost productivity.

"For many cancer patients, fear of cancer pain is worse than fear of death itself," said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). "The good news is that nearly all cancer pain can be relieved if treated adequately. This legislation will address significant pain management barriers such as, lack of physician training, patient awareness and treatment disparities based on gender, age and race."

Key components of the bill include:

  • The authorization of an Institute of Medicine Conference on Pain Care;
  • Encourages the National Institutes of Health (NIH) director to aggressively expand research on the causes of and the potential treatment for pain;
  • The creation of a grant program to improve health professionals’ understanding and ability to assess and appropriately treat pain; and
  • The creation of a national public awareness campaign about pain management, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, with particular attention to improving access to appropriate pain treatment among underserved populations.

"Access to appropriate, timely and unbiased pain care is a fundamental right. For a number of reasons, these rights are sadly unrealized for millions of Americans in pain," said Smith.

"By increasing research, education and awareness of pain issues, the National Pain Care Policy Act takes important steps toward making these rights a reality."

Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Mike Rogers (R-MI) have championed the issue of proper pain care education and awareness since introduction of the bill late last year. Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-MI) worked to expedite this critical bill to the full House floor for a vote in the hopes of getting it passed this session.

ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan partner advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society, dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit

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