Sen. Joan Dukes is pressing ahead with a measure to enable patients easier access to pain-relieving drugs.

The state Senate has approved a bill that would make it easier for doctors to use drugs to help patients with pain that's difficult to treat. The measure, passed 28-2 and sent to the House, would eliminate a rule that requires physicians to get a second opinion before treating a patient with intractable pain with a controlled substance.

State law now says that before beginning drug treatment in such cases, a doctor first must obtain an evaluation by a specialist when treating the part of the body that is the apparent source of the pain.

The state Board of Medical Examiners can grant case-by-case exceptions, but only if a doctor determines that getting a second evaluation is "impossible."

Dukes, D-Svensen, sponsor of SB436, said second opinions are often not readily available, especially in rural areas with relatively few specialists. She said the law is the only one that prevents doctors from undertaking a medical treatment until a second opinion is obtained. Meanwhile, "the patient has to continue suffering," she said.

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