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Report: California Making Progress On Pain Medication Policies

Aired 7/15/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

Report: CA Making Progress On Pain Management Policies


Alison Ramey, State Legislative Director, California, American Cancer Society, Cancer Action Network

Dr. Timothy Furnish, Pain Specialist, Center for Pain Management UC San Diego

The main storyline on prescription pain medication in recent years has been about widespread abuse and how to stop it.


Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy

Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy

A progress report card evaluating state pain policies by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network


The San Diego County Medical Examiner reported that for the third consecutive year, prescription drug overdoses continue to be one of the leading causes of accidental death in the county.

But there's another side to this story, one that pain management specialists don't want us to forget. People struggling with chronic pain or getting palliative care need these medications and making the drugs too difficult to prescribe risks unnecessary suffering.

A state-by-state report card has just been released from the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network that assesses how states are balancing the dual concerns about prescription drugs. It gives California a B-plus on its state pain policies.

The report assigns each state a letter grade from "A" to "F," based on whether state pain policies enhance access to pain care — including the use of pain medication — and minimizes potential treatment barriers.

The report found that 24 states changed or adopted new policies to improve access to effective pain management between 2012 and 2013.

Additional findings:

• The number of states that received an "A" grade increased from 13 in 2012 to 15 in 2013. These 15 states represent 22 percent of the total U.S. population.

• Between 2012 and 2013, five states had sufficient policy change to improve their grade.

• 48 states and the District of Columbia now have a grade above the average ("C"), compared to 44 states in 2006.

• 36 states improved their grade since 2006, and no state’s grade has decreased since 2006.

“While we’re pleased with the uptick we’ve seen, we can’t rest until all 50 states have an ‘A’ grade and cancer survivors no longer have to needlessly suffer due to a lack of medication to regulate their pain,” said Doug Ulman, Livestrong Foundation president and CEO. “Alongside our partners in the cancer community, we will continue to relentlessly advocate on behalf of patients and survivors to ensure that policymakers enact patient-centered solutions to cancer care.”

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