Treatment of pain caused by cancer in Italy has been reported to be inadequate for more than a decade. The problem has been documented in the literature by International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) reports that show Italy's low consumption of morphine, and by INCB statements reflecting concern that pain medications are not adequately available to suffering cancer patients. The reasons for undertreatment include lack of physician education, low public awareness about pain management and overly restrictive regulations that inhibit the prescribing of opioid analgesics. In 1999, a workgroup appointed by the Ministry of Health began to address inadequate cancer pain management. In 2000, the workgroup issued a proposal to reform national policy, including simplification of opioid prescribing requirements. The proposal was adopted by Parliament in January 2001 and was effective from March 6th. Distribution of a new opioids prescription form to selected regions in Italy began in December 2001. The change, when fully implemented, will be an important step toward relieving cancer pain.