Patients in Chronic Pain Are Undertreated
Two new reports highlight the fact that people who are living with significant or chronic pain are undertreated. Specifically, at least 30 percent of individuals with moderate chronic pain and more than 50 percent who are living with severe chronic pain are not receiving adequate pain relief.
“Many people suffer needlessly with pain that could be treated,” according to pain management expert Kathryn Hahn, a pharmacist and affiliate faculty member at Oregon State University and chair of the Oregon Pain Management Commission. Her findings and comments appear in recent issues of the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy and in The Rx Consultant.
Hahn argues that the failure to adequately treat pain associated with a variety of medical problems can be linked to physicians’ personal biases, inadequate training in pain management, and fear of prescription drug abuse. These hurdles need to be overcome, as Hahn says the situation is reaching “crisis proportions.”
The National Center for Health Statistics reports that 76.2 million Americans suffer with chronic pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine notes that the most common types of pain include arthritis, lower back, bone/joint pain, muscle pain, and fibromyalgia.
A 2006 survey conducted for the American Pain Foundation and sponsored by Endo Pharmaceuticals found that among chronic pain sufferers who were currently taking an opioid, more than half felt they had little or no control over their pain, 59 percent said it had an impact on their overall enjoyment of life, 77 percent were depressed, and 86 percent could not sleep well.
Despite the epidemic of chronic pain, Hahn notes that pain treatment is not a major part of medical school training, and in fact medical students may receive only a few hours of instruction on the use of opioids. Even though physicians have sophisticated pain management methods available, “many doctors are not fully informed about all the options available,” explains Hahn, “and also often turn patients away because they’re very concerned about the problems with prescription drug abuse.”