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Study Shows That New State Regulations Encourage Appropriate Pain Management

Study Shows That New State Regulations Encourage Appropriate Pain Management

NEW YORK—State regulators and medical boards are adopting new pain
management policies favorable to physicians and patients even at a time when
drug abuse issues are at the forefront of national attention, according to
policy researcher Aaron M. Gilson, PhD.

"Government and regulatory policy to encourage pain management in the
United States has increased at a phenomenal rate," said Dr. Gilson,
assistant director of the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center
Pain & Policy Studies Group (PPSG), Madison.

The PPSG report Annual Review of State Pain Policies: 2001, released at a
media briefing held by the American Medical Association, shows that state pain
policies easing constraints on use of opioid analgesics are being adopted at a
steady rate. In 1989, the PPSG identified only six state policies addressing
appropriate use of controlled substances for pain; in 2001, there were more
than 80 in 44 states.

"It appears that state health care regulatory boards continue to
recognize that pain management needs to be encouraged, that physician concerns
about investigation and discipline do need to be addressed, and that effective
patient care needs to be maximized," said Dr. Gilson, describing the
findings of the report.

Notably, the 2001 review showed that, for the first time, policies are being
drafted that contain explicit statements that efforts to control drug abuse and
diversion must not interfere with patient care. "We are especially pleased
to see that West Virginia had such a policy in 2001, despite this state being
involved in recent drug abuse issues," Dr. Gilson said.

In addition, the PPSG did not identify any "panic policies"
developed in 2001—in other words, policies designed to address the drug abuse
issue but instead result in restrictions in the use of these substances for the
treatment of pain.

However, according to Dr. Gilson, many policies contain language that can
impede pain management. "They contain language that can restrict medical
decisions, increase physician concerns about regulatory scrutiny, and,
ultimately, impede patient access to effective pain relief," he noted.
Only two states—Alabama and Maine—do not have any regulatory policies with
restrictive language.


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