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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.

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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.”

It’s not that the prescription drug abuse problem isn’t real: drugs such as oxycodone and morphine are often stolen and misused. A 2006 survey of teenagers found that 62 percent said they could easily get prescription pain relievers from their parents’ homes, and another study reported that admissions to federally supported treatment programs for opioid abuse increased 342 percent between 1996 and 2006, at a cost of tens of billions of dollars annually.

Although undertreatment of pain can affect people of any age, Hahn says that “It’s particularly bad with elderly and Medicare patients.” She added that long-term solutions that address both adequate pain management and prescription drug abuse will require education and cooperation from consumers and healthcare providers. Some suggestions include:

Patients need to cooperate with their healthcare practitioners regarding their pain management plans that may include prescription drugs as well as exercise, meditation, massage, physical therapy, and other approaches.

  • Consumers need to lock up any prescription drugs they have in their home to prevent theft and misuse
  • Both healthcare providers and consumers need to understand that psychological addiction or physical dependence on drugs is rarely a significant problem when patients are in a prescribed pain management program that is managed properly
  • Physicians need to stay current on the latest options in pain management and recognize that pain control is a major part of overall health care
  • Patients in chronic pain need to be persistent in ensuring their pain concerns are taken seriously by healthcare providers

Hahn also notes that health insurers “can help educate physicians on appropriate use, advocate for universal precautions in use of pain medicines,” and that community pharmacists can help educate patients who live with chronic pain and help them manage their prescribed drug therapies.

American Academy of Pain Medicine
American Pain Foundation
Hahn KL. Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy 2009; 23(4): 414-18
National Centers for Health Statistics
Oregon State University press release



Thank you!
And here it is 2016 and they are taking away long term successful patients medications what was barely covering our pain is now being lowered not because of anything we did wrong but because of abusers. So pain that was doable is now going to drop to barely tolerable and the street abusers will continue on abusing as they always do and we are left to suffer as always. while we get treated worse and worse the more acceptable it becomes to the public doctors especially pharamacists. The more chronic pain sufferers will do just that suffer. After 17 years 9 years at same dose I am fighting to keep my long term agreed upon opioid treatment meds. I am fighting for my life so I can be out of just enough pain so I am suffering everyday but not so miserable I can't stand it. Which is a very fine line tip one way good pain relief tip the other way not near enough pain relief. That's when people die when people go to others instead of their doctors for pain relief & then that adds to the problems but I can't blame them. No one cares because they aren't the people living in pain and now with the full blown epidemic as it is called the people in pain will more & more even pain doctors don't want you to get complete relief meds are given but they always stop just a dose away from great relief or complete pain relief is never the goal why I will never understand.
I suffer from chronic neck & back pain , fibroayga, & nerve damage, I have been prescribed Percocet for over 10 years and other pain medication 19 years prior to that, it is the only thing that makes the pain tolerable so I can live without being miserable, I don't not contribute to any of my medicine going to a drug dealer or on the streets, I gave had neck surgery to overcome the oain but i still have it even worae tgan before surgery . I am miserable from the pain every minute if each day , why should myself & other people who have chronic pain be treated as criminals and left to suffer ,if they would number mark somehow they woykd know who is putting it on the streets , side effects from with drawl & trying live with the pain is life treating to innocent patients with real pain , not the fault of drug abuse on the street.