NHPCO: Unfair coverage hurts hospice

Emphasis should be on pain relief

There is strong concern among hospice industry leaders that stories of OxyContin abuse are hampering efforts to make pain management accessible to patients suffering from chronic pain.

On Aug. 13, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization issued the following statement in hopes of putting the OxyContin issue into perspective for physicians who are on the front line of pain management:

"Lost in much of the media’s coverage of the illegal diversion and abuse of OxyContin are the needs of chronically and terminally ill patients. The potential for unintended, tragic consequences for pain patients and their families from imbalanced coverage of this issue is of deep concern to the nation’s hospices.

"America’s hospices have long recognized that until pain is treated, the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of dying patients and their loved ones cannot be fully addressed. Sensationalized attention to illegal abuse cannot be allowed to eclipse the medically valid reasons for the use of effective pain medications.

"Pain is largely untreated in this country. Numerous, well-respected studies have demonstrated that fact. To ensure that patients and families who are coping with terminal illness have access to adequate pain relief, overreactions, misperceptions, and fears fueled by recent media coverage of OxyContin must be dispelled.

"Hospice patients and families deserve a balanced approach from our federal and state regulatory agencies and our national, state, and local law enforcement authorities. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization urges that these agencies and authorities fully consider the recommendations of the hospice community, health care providers, and patient advocates to ensure that the needs of the chronically and terminally ill are met."