"DEA Withdraws Its Support of Guidelines on Painkillers" [news story, Oct. 21] described the arduous consensus-building undertaken by Drug Enforcement Administration officials and the medical establishment in developing pain-management guidelines. What was missing from the article -- and from the decision making -- was the effect that the DEA's renunciation of its consensus document has had on patients experiencing pain related to life-limiting illness.
The DEA decision has turned the clock back on years of work by oncologists, ethicists and patient advocates seeking reasonable, responsible and humane remedies for pain. A 2003 Institute of Medicine report targeted pain control in advanced cancer as one of 20 priority areas that could transform health care in America. The report said, "Twenty percent of Americans die from cancer, often after months of painful progressive illness. Effective programs have shown that this pain typically can be controlled enough to give patients a satisfactory level of comfort."
The DEA promises to revisit this issue, but the government's retreat from its pain-management guidelines is an affront to patients and those who care for them.
ELLEN L. STOVALL
President and CEO
Member, Board of Directors
National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship