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Bill Aims To Make Things Easier For Chronic Pain Sufferers

Aired 4/16/12 on KPBS News.

Chronic pain sufferers could get doctor-prescribed medicines sooner under a bill in the California Legislature.

— A bill that would make it easier for patients to get doctor-recommended drugs for chronic pain is making its way through the California Legislature. The measure addresses what some say are delays in care.

Insurance companies routinely make people with chronic pain try and fail with up to five drugs before they're allowed to take the medication their doctor prescribes. Physicians complain this so-called step therapy makes it tough for patients to get relief.

Dr. Michael Verdolin is a pain medicine specialist in Chula Vista.

"It's incredibly frustrating to both myself, and more so to the patients, because they come to see me, they wait to see me. Once they've seen me, I make a prescription, only to have that aspect of things practically second-guessed by an insurance company," Verdolin complained.

The Assembly bill would prohibit insurers from making patients try and fail on more than two medications. It would also allow physicians to set time limits on fail first or step therapy.

Insurances companies oppose the measure.

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