A study of state pain policies released by the University of Wisconsin Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG) reports that while state pain policies are moving toward a better balance of the needs of chronically ill patients and the prevention of drug abuse, undertreatment of chronic pain remains a huge problem. This is a result of outdated policies and physician reluctance born of a fear of facing harsh scrutiny from law enforcement agencies.
Achieving Balance in State Pain Policy: A Progress Report Card
The project examined and graded state pain policies (A through F) and compared current grades to those awarded in 2000 and 2003 to show change over time. Though the report emphasizes that significant policy changes are still needed, it is important to note that no state received a lower grade in 2006 than it had received in the past, that 82% of states received a grade of C or higher, and that 19 states improved their grades from 2003 to 2006.
To improve upon their current pain policies, the PPSG recommends that each state's policy:
- specifically encourage pain management
- directly address physician fears of investigation
- avoid defining addiction in a way that it may be confused with the physical dependence that can develop when a patient is treated with opiods
- eliminate or modify policies that create unclear standards or requirements for physicians who treat pain patients.
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