Patients who live with headache and migraine have two key opportunities to raise awareness and advocate for themselves in the near future, first with Headache on the Hill on Feb. 13 and 14, and then with Migraine Awareness Month in June. While June may seem far off, those who are interested in participating by obtaining a Migraine Awareness Month Proclamation in their state or town should take action now; steps are listed below.

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The 2017 legislative session started out with a huge number of bills impacting the chronic pain community. U.S. Pain Foundation will continue focusing on issues that are relevant to people living with pain including, but not limited to: step therapy, non-medical switching, biologics/biosimilars, abuse-deterrent formularies, medical marijuana, out-of-pocket costs, complementary and integrative therapies and treatment access.

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Did you know that, in most states, your insurer can change the original terms of your prescription coverage at any time and force you off of a medication, even one you may have been taking for years? Fortunately, five states —Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Washington — have introduced bills this session to prohibit this controversial insurance practice, commonly known as non-medical switching. More states are expected to do the same, and the U.S. Pain Foundation is actively participating in or leading efforts to support each of these bills.

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Pain patients oftentimes encounter obstacles to care, whether because of a clinician who doesn’t take their pain seriously, difficulty accessing the best treatment options due to high costs, or other reasons. To better protect pain patients’ rights, U.S. Pain Foundation and the Massachusetts Pain Initiative joined together to help spearhead the refiling of a bill, “An Act Requiring Pain Assessment and Management in Healthcare Facilities” (HD409/SD1514), in the state of Massachusetts. The effort was led by U.S. Pain’s National Director of Advocacy and Policy Cindy Steinberg. Bill sponsors are Rep. Jay Kaufman and Sen. Julian Cyr.

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On Jan. 5, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) published a new, 30-page proposal for curbing opioid abuse: “Opioid Misuse Strategy 2016.” Among the more controversial suggestions are incentivizing pharmacists to report clinicians who appear to be overprescribing opioids and encouraging patients and providers to report on pharmacists who may be dispensing inappropriately.

CMS did not say when it planned to implement the strategy or if public hearings would be held.

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National Director of Policy and Advocacy Cindy Steinberg has had a busy month. On Jan. 3, she was featured in a Boston Globe article about the impact of clinicians prescribing fewer opioids. The article featured a study of 3,000 clinicians across the country. More than one-third said the reduction in prescribing has hurt patients with chronic pain. Just over half of all respondents said they had cut back on opioid prescribing within the past two years or so, while more than two-thirds of family medicine and internal medicine doctors had done so.

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U.S. Pain Foundation spoke out on two important federal issues this month with articles in the National Pain Report. The first article, published Jan. 11,  discussed the potential Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal, while a second article highlighted new biosimilar and biologic naming guidelines and was published Jan. 24.

In the ACA story, U.S. Pain joined many other patient advocacy organizations in expressing concern over the potential repeal without details for a replacement. Written by Shaina Smith, director of advocacy and alliance development, on behalf of U.S. Pain, the article emphasized the importance of access to quality, affordable insurance for chronic pain patients.

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On Jan. 24, 2010, Melanie Dickens fell on her left foot, a fall that led to a painful condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). In an attempt to desensitize her legs and protect them from the elements, Dickens began wearing knee-high socks every day.  As the first anniversary of her injury drew near, Dickens’s family did not want her to be reminded that had it been one year that she had struggled with constant pain. So they set out to focus on the positive through a celebration of her strength. Crazy Sock Day was born. Dickens’s friends and family all wore colorful knee-high socks to show their support.

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With one in ten American suffering from a rare disease, rare is more common than most believe. And many rare diseases cause chronic pain. U.S. Pain Foundation is proud to once again partner with the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) for this year’s Rare Disease Day. On Jan. 28, people living with or affected by a rare disease will join patient organizations, policymakers, caregivers, health care professionals, researchers, and industry representatives in solidarity to raise awareness for rare disease. This year’s theme is research; the slogan is “With research, possibilities are limitless.”

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