May 11, 2005

Wyden-Smith Legislation Will Help Patients, Families, Health Providers Fight Pain

"Conquering Pain Act" would provide information, assistancefor those in chronic pain and at end of life

Washington, DC - U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) today introduced legislation to help Americans living and dying in pain, support their families and assist health care providers in getting information and guidance to treat severe pain. The Conquering Pain Act will provide an opportunity for the country to develop and test different ways of provide pain management to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "Almost half of the dying experience moderate to severe pain in the last days of their lives, and millions more Americans live with chronic, crippling pain - but it doesn't have to be that way," said Wyden. "The medical technology and know-how exist today to reduce that suffering, and the Conquering Pain Act will help providers, patients and families find the facts about help for pain." "Too many people endure chronic pain and spend their last days suffering," said Smith. "We often overlook pain management, but it is a vital component of care giving. Sometimes, helping with pain is simply the best we can do." Chronic or severe pain is believed to affect as many as 50 million Americans, and is often left untreated or under-treated especially among older patients, African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities, and children. As many as 50 percent of patients experience moderate to severe pain at least half the time in their last days of life, and 70 to 80 percent of cancer patients experience significant pain during their illness. One in seven nursing home residents experience persistent pain that may diminish their quality of life. The Conquering Pain Act will make the effective treatment of pain a national priority in the following ways: $ Establishing six "National Family Support Networks" to assist physicians and families of patients in pain, ensuring that Americans in every community - including providers handling difficult cases - will have a 24-hour resource for up-to-date information and guidance to deal with pain. Services the networks may provide include counseling, community leadership in expanding access to pain care, caregiver support; they may also help to promote research on treating pain or even set up telemedicine links between communities to ensure 24-hour assistance to providers, families and patients in pain. -Requiring the development of an Internet site or the enhancement of an existing Internet site to provide pain management guidelines to individuals, health care practitioners and health facilities. -Requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to mount education projects across the country to improve pain management. -Requiring Medicare, Medicaid and other Federally administered health programs to tell patients that they have a right to pain management. -Mandating a report by the Surgeon General on the state of pain and symptom management in the United States. The bill also requires Federal research on how the costs of treating pain, Medicare reimbursements and insurance company policies may keep some Americans from getting the pain treatment they need, and also calls on the government to better coordinate its efforts on pain policy, research and information. The Conquering Pain Act will provide for demonstration projects to help set professional performance standards for treating pain and to deal specifically with pain in end-of-life care. The bill is expected to be referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.