By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Public Affairs Director

Medicare Cracks Down on Opioid Prescriptions, Abuse

An estimated 14.4 million Medicare recipients were prescribed some form of opioid treatment in 2016, paid for by their Medicare benefits. In an attempt to help curb the national opioid epidemic, officials from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that Medicare would no longer pay for long-term, high-dose prescription pain medication. Unsurprisingly, the plan received flak from patient and provider advocacy groups alike. Opponents to the CMS announcement decried the efforts, citing barriers to crucial medications needed for patients in chronic or severe pain—including those with cancer.

ONS—along with many providers and advocates in the pain management community—has worked to raise awareness for patients who need pain medications to manage severe or chronic pain, especially related to a cancer diagnosis or treatment. People with severe or chronic pain, with quality-of-life and end-of-life issues, and patients with cancer have a different set of circumstances for opioids and other pain medications. Unintended consequences could create barriers to quality health care. ONS continues to be a leading voice for patients with cancer and their oncology nurse caregivers to ensure access to quality care for all.

Health Care Tops Poll of American Worries

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)—and the U.S. healthcare system in general—faced countless attempted changes throughout 2017. Dominating the news cycle for months at a time, proposed legislation seemed to arise, face public outcry, fail to pass, and end with lawmakers intent on revising their bills to implement future change in the healthcare system. Yet, despite repeated attempts to repeal and replace the ACA, the healthcare bill stayed mostly intact after months of uncertainty. With all the back and forth in the healthcare debate, Americans are more uncertain—and more worried—about health care than ever before.   

Nearly 75% of Americans now rank health care as a major domestic issue and personal concern. With skyrocketing prices, barriers to providers, and issues with access to treatments and care, it's little wonder that the public opinion poll reflects a growing fear for health care. Americans aren't naïve. They understand that the vast number of people in need of costly care means that the insurance markets must be stabilized to level the playing field. Otherwise, millions of Americans will see health care as financially out of reach for them. ONS continues to advocate for access to quality cancer care.

Leading Chemotherapy Researcher, Physician Dies at 92

In the early 1950s, cancer treatments were essentially nonexistent. For many, a cancer diagnosis meant a death sentence. But through the groundbreaking, often-controversial research of many healthcare professionals, new treatments were developed. John Holland, MD, strived to understand how chemotherapy treatments could be used to treat cancer, despite backlash at the time. Through his research, treatments were eventually developed, and cancer no longer meant certain death for patients.

On March 22, 2018, Holland died at the age of 92, leaving behind a legacy of oncology researchers who forged a new path in cancer care. Holland was initially shunned by the medical profession for his ideas and work in chemotherapy, but his research findings eventually became the basis for a new kind of treatment. Chemotherapy, now a standard practice for treatment, was considered a dangerous and even deadly course of action for patients with cancer in the 1950s. Yet, the spirit of investigation, research, and inquiry helped shape what would become oncology care as we know it today. The work of researchers and scientists in oncology is crucial to improving practice and moving the needle for patient-centered, quality care.