Patient Advocates Urge Congress to Act on National Pain Strategy

by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor

A new plan to address chronic pain has garnered overwhelming support from patient advocates. The National Pain Strategy – developed by six federal agencies and 80 experts from across the medical, advocacy and scientific communities – is “the federal government’s first coordinated…roadmap to…effective, safe, high-quality, evidence-based pain care.” On Tuesday nearly 70 patient advocacy organizations submitted a joint letter to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions calling for the next step: a written implementation plan and budget from the Department of Health and Human Services.

The National Pain Strategy draws upon the findings of a 2011 Institute of Medicine report, which acknowledges the barriers and stigma associated with pain care as well as the need for integrated and multimodal treatment. While the IOM report acknowledges the need for a cultural transformation on the issue of chronic pain, the National Pain Strategy lays out the specifics. The strategy envisions:

  • Access to patient-centered care and educational materials on pain self-management
  • Public recognition of chronic pain as a “complex disease” and compassion for those who suffer from it
  • Payment models that support integrated, multimodal treatment
  • More and better data on the health and economic burdens of chronic pain as well as the effectiveness and value of treatment approaches.

The strategy identifies short-, medium- and long-term deliverables and strategies that can guide and gauge progress.

It also acknowledges the link between poorly treat chronic pain and the nation’s opioid abuse crisis. The document notes the problem of “inadequate tailoring of pain therapies to individuals, and reliance on…high risk treatments such as inappropriate prescribing of opioid analgesics.” The National Pain Strategy explains that “Actions to improve pain care…and appropriate use of opioid analgesics…would be coordinated and balanced with the need to curb inappropriate prescribing and use practices.”

The next step, the document explains, is a Federal Pain Research Strategy to complement the National Pain Strategy by identifying gaps and topics for future research. Meanwhile, patient advocates urge the HELP Committee to put a 60-day timeline on submission of a written implementation plan from HHS.

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