States to get pain policy report cards

An expert academic group will grade states' pain management policies starting this September.

By Kevin B. O’Reilly — Posted July 24, 2006

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States will be graded annually on how well their laws, regulations and guidelines achieve a balance between controlling opioid abuse and controlling pain, thanks to a three-year, $900,000 grant from leading cancer groups.

The money goes to the University of Wisconsin's Pain & Policy Studies Group, which reviewed pain management policies in 2000 and 2003 and found that more than half of states had policies encouraging pain management and had measures distinguishing between drug addiction and pain patients' physical dependence on opioids.

The first of three annual reports is scheduled to be released in September and will focus on policies in place as of March 30.

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the American Cancer Society announced joint funding of the nationwide project last month.

"Pain management and symptom control are critically important quality-of-life issues for all cancer patients," Patrice Tosi, acting CEO of the Komen Foundation, said in a statement. "The report cards issued by PPSG will be essential to clarify where pain management disparities remain, so they can be addressed."

Although funding is coming from cancer groups, the report cards will evaluate pain polices as a whole, said Aaron M. Gilson, PhD, PPSG's assistant director. The group's evaluation criteria are accepted among pain physicians, Dr. Gilson said, but there is sometimes a discrepancy between the policies on paper and how they're implemented by law enforcement officials and medical boards.

"We want doctors to be aware of those standards, because it's those standards that govern their medical practice in that state," Dr. Gilson said.

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