Promoting Helpful Public Policy and Research

pb1One of the Guiding Principles of Relieving Pain in America focuses on closing the gap between what we know about the treatment of pain and what we do; “while there is much more to be learned about pain and its treatment, even existing knowledge is not always used effectively, and thus substantial numbers of people suffer needlessly.” (IOM pg. 22) There are many reasons for this; one is the current pain policy framework in the United States and confusion between the under-treatment of pain and issues associated with the abuse of prescription pain medications.

For more than a decade there has been a call for “balanced pain policy”; however, the growing abuse of prescription medications and concern about “unintended deaths” associated with opiates  has resulted in anything but balance between policy.  In an effort to address the abuse of prescription drugs, legislators at both the state and federal level have enacted laws that have had unintended consequences which have made it even  harder for those with chronic pain to receive the care they need and deserve.   Doctors fear oversight and intervention by their state medical boards.  Pharmacists find their supply of certain medications which are essential for some people living with chronic pain arbitrarily limited.  Healthcare delivery systems close pain clinics because they are not reimbursed appropriately to support comprehensive pain management.

PAINS is not a political advocacy group; so, what is PAINS role in addressing this problem?  PAINS is strongly committed, however, to educating those responsible for making policy about chronic pain and to provide them access to well-research objective information on key policy issues and to connect them with the best “thinkers” on these issues.    We believe strongly that we cannot hold people accountable if they simply do not know or are misinformed.  With support from the Cancer Pain Relief Committee, PAINS is currently publishing quarterly policy briefs that are targeted toward legislators.  Collaborating on this series are three PAINS members:  the American Academy of Pain Management, the Center for Practical Bioethics, and the Pain and Policy Studies Group at the University of Wisconsin.   At PAINS 2nd Annual Meeting, Dr. Katie Horton, a Professor at George Washington University, and her research team shared a study to assess the negative impact of policy focused on abuse and addition on those who live with chronic pain.  A PAINS workgroup has been assembled that is developing a set of policy guidelines and agenda for improving the treatment of those living with chronic pain.  In collaboration with others, PAINS plans to convene a meeting of both public and private payers to explore strategies to remedy the current reimbursement problems.