State, federal pain policies hurt

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A lot of Americans suffer from chronic pain. This group includes many nursing home residents. Which is why some new developments on the pain front are encouraging. 

A new report from The Mayday Fund, which the American Health Care Association endorses, recommends that lawmakers, policymakers and the medical community address chronic pain as a public health crisis. And it is.

Research shows that many states still have draconian laws on their books that interfere with medical practitioners' use of pain medications. As The Mayday Fund report recommends, states need balanced policies that crack down on medication abuses but also allow the medical community to administer opioids when necessary.

Nursing homes are facing just such a dilemma. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is more heavily enforcing rules that require written approvals from doctors and an added layer of approval when meds are ordered for sick patients. A doctor must sign prescriptions and then fax them to a pharmacy before a nurse can administer them in a setting, according to the Controlled Substances Act.

While the intent is to stop theft and abuse of drugs by nursing home staff, the side effect is a delay in providing pain medications, such as morphine and Percocet, to those who need it.

This is unnecessary, as Sens. Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) appropriately said in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

No doubt there are abuses in nursing homes. But this appears to be another case of the government offering an overwrought and unbalanced solution. The result is more discomfort than relief.

Grading states

Only five states received an “A” for balanced pain policies, according to a pain management report card released last year by the Pain by the Policies Study Group from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. These are Kansas, Michigan, Virginia, Oregon and Wisconsin. For more information on state pain policies, go to www.aspi.wisc.edu.


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McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.

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