Spinal Cord Stimulation, Current Status 2017


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One of the top read articles in 2017 from the journal Pain (free pdf).

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Click title below:

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Current status and future perspectives of spinal cord stimulation in treatment of chronic pain

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Geurts, José W.a,*; Joosten, Elbert A.a,b; van Kleef, Maartena

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3. Complications and side effects

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“Complications and side effects (adverse events) acquiring reinterventions often occur during treatment with SCS.6,8,16,20,37 Complications include deep and superficial infections or equipment-related side effects like hardware malfunction, lead migration, fractured electrode, pulse generator discomfort, and battery replacements. Localized pain over the implanted hardware occurs regularly, on average in 6% of cases.6 This pain, for instance, can present as pain around the implanted pulse generator or over the lead. Such pain typically leads to replacement of the lead and therefore an additional surgery. Removal of the SCS system may be necessary in cases of deep infection or treatment failure. A prospective study performed over 12 years8 showed adverse events in 61% of patients. However, the complication rate was significantly reduced during the last 4 years of the study from an annual mean of 30% to 22%. The authors concluded that this was likely due to technological developments and improvements in the SCS hardware. Another explanation for this reduction is that the physicians treating patients gradually gain experience in a particular implant technique.22 New implantation techniques like DRG-STIM have been reported to cause more complications and it has been concluded that refinement and optimization of the technique are needed to minimize adverse events.22

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5. Future perspectives of spinal cord stimulation

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….”A point of concern is that, at present, cost-effectiveness of SCS is impeded by the high cost of the device and the high incidence of complications and side effects requiring reintervention and surgery. Consequently, SCS treatment is not accessible for everyone in the world and up to now is only available for selected indications.”….

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Among problems from spinal cord stimulators that I have seen in those with CRPS, the procedure has created a new pain that is now #1 most severe, often at the battery pack that is placed at the low back. Several patients reported units were explanted with difficulty due to severe scar formation.   

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Reference

[8]: Geurts JW, Smits H, Kemler MA, Brunner F, Kessels AG, van Kleef M.

Spinal cord stimulation for complex regional pain syndrome type I: a prospective cohort study with long-term follow-up.

Neuromodulation 2013;16:523–9; discussion 529.

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Objectives: Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an effective treatment for intractable complex regional pain syndrome type I pain. Long-term data are scarce on effectiveness, degree of pain relief, predictors, and complications.

Materials and methods: From 1997 to 2008, 84 consecutive patients who received an implanted SCS system after positive test stimulation were included in the prospective study. Treatment effectiveness was assessed annually as measured by mean visual analog scale pain scores and with the Patients Global Impression of Change scale. Treatment success was defined as at least 30% mean pain relief at end point and treatment failure as explantation of the system. A Cox regression determined if baseline factors were associated with both these outcomes.

Results: During 11 years, 41% (95% CI: 27-55) of the patients experience at least 30% pain relief at assessment end point. During 12 years of follow-up 63% (95%CI: 41-85) of the implanted patients still use their SCS device at measured end point. Pain relief of at least 50% one week following test stimulation is associated with a higher probability of long-term treatment success. In 51 patients, 122 reinterventions were performed over 12 years; 13 were due to complications, 44 to battery changes, and 65 reinterventions were equipment related.

Conclusion: SCS provides an effective long-term pain treatment for 63% (95%CI: 41-85) of implanted patients. Forty-one percent (95%CI: 27-55) of SCS treated patients have at least 30% pain reduction at measurement end point. The number of reinterventions after implantation due to equipment-related problems, battery changes, and complications is 122 over 12 years of follow-up. Sixty-one percent (N = 51) of the patients had at least one reintervention. Mean pain relief of at least 50% (visual analog scale) one week after the test stimulation is associated with long-term treatment success.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal Cord Stimulators – Not Allowed to Sue Medtronic – Supreme Court Ruling 2008


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More than any other topic  readers seem to read and comment more about serious problems with the Medtronic spinal cord stimulator than anything else on this site, yet they overlook this post last week: 

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Supreme Court ruling 2008

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Riegel v Medtronic

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Patients Who are Implanted with High-Risk Devices

 

Not Allowed to Sue

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And the problems never get addressed. There is no accountability for the damage to spinal cord that so many experience—the spinal cord for Pete’s sake —and no research on the incidence of the many different problems. If complications were not severe, thousands would not care to search the subject.

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Perhaps a person with a legal background would discuss how that case was won.

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How can this possibly be right? 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Cannabis That Can Stop the Munchies? What is THCV?


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MEDICAL MARIJUANA

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Cannabis is legal in California for adult use as of January 1, 2018. This may be helpful to someone you know. It is a most important drug. Below you can find a few pointers that are basic to understanding what strains to try. Distributors are swamped with ten times as many buyers as last week, prices are doubled, taxes are very high, it is very expensive and you will need to test many strains before you find what works for you without making you stupid with euphoria that lasts 12 hours. Do be warned of turning the body into sofa-size obesity overnight. Munchies occur with high THC strains. To discuss below how to avoid that torture and still relieve pain or muscle spasm.

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Horvath et al at Yale in 2015 found cannabis stimulates hunger and arousal in hypothalamic neurons. Here’s the YaleNews on the multi-authored work.

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Horvath is the Jean and David W. Wallace Professor of Neurobiology and of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, director of the Yale Program in Cell Signaling and Neurobiology of Metabolism, and chair of the Section of Comparative Medicine.

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To orient you in the quote below, cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) is one of the two known cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Others are located outside brain, throughout the body.

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“The Pomc gene encodes both the anorexigenic peptide α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, and the opioid peptide β-endorphin. Hypothalamic pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) neurons promote satiety. Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1R) is critical for the central regulation of food intake. CB1R activation selectively increases β-endorphin but not α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone release in the hypothalamus, and systemic or hypothalamic administration of the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone blocks acute CB1R-induced feeding.

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Interesting. Low dose naltrexone, which is essentially long acting naloxone, may block munchies in humans? At what dose? Please comment if you take naltrexone 4.5 mg or 15 mg (anti-inflammatory doses) or 28 mg (weight loss dose) or 50 mg and above doses of naltrexone (high doses for addiction).

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One strain that is better at stopping or reducing the munchies, and that is believed due to a cannabinoid in the strain called THCV. You can always do a search for THCV.

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Cannabis is one of the few medications that can relieve some of the worst side effects of opioid withdrawal. Many patients find they need to use fewer opioid pills for pain or can stop them altogether; they need to use fewer muscle relaxants; and they can eat or sleep better if they use cannabis. Once cannabis became legal, many alcoholics were able to give up alcohol because their first preference is cannabis.

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Get a low cost recommendation for medical marijuana in minutes at home from your mobile phone. The best source for recommendation is : HelloMD.

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Cannabis may be legal in all states once tobacco companies toss some money at Congress. Could cannabis be related to the vow of Phillip Morris and a wave of big tobacco companies to stop selling cigarettes this year?

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It is dreadfully expensive and heavily taxed. All states should adopt New Mexico’s law that allows healthcare insurers to reimburse patients who have paid for medicinal cannabis. Voters…

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Cannabis is made by the body and the brain makes two of the endogenous cannabinoids. If is highly anti-inflammatory, and profoundly important mainly in the immune system but also in bone turnover. You have more cannabinoid receptors in your body than any other kind. It is as old as sponges, an ancient medicine.

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A WORTHY READ

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Mr. X – by Carl Sagan who describes his experience with marijuana at length and used it creatively for decades opening his brain to experiences he was otherwise not oriented to at all.

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MUNCHIES

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Fear the munchies. Cannabis, medical marijuana, can cause the munchies, an overwhelming desire to eat nonstop, usually all the most high calorie things your desperately fevered brain can dream of cramming in.

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Certain strains of cannabis can be life saving for those who have loss of appetite from conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, depression, inflammatory conditions, etc. But the munchies can be disastrous when you cannot afford to gain weight due to pain or disability or simply wish to develop an important standard to maintain best health which means good lean body weight. The best way to reduce inflammation is to avoid obesity, avoid sugar, avoid diabetes, heart attacks, strokes. Remember inflammation is the root cause of 90% of the conditions we die of: diabetes, cancers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune disease, atherosclerosis, etc.

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Those with an eating disorder should scrupulously avoid those strains that are highly rated for helping anorexia, loss of appetite.

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CHOOSE STRAINS THAT STOP THE MUNCHIES

STRAINS WITH HIGH THCV  OR HIGH CBD 

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If needing high THC for pain or appetite, for example, then a strain with high THC and high THCV is Durban Poison. Read in detail about strains on leafy.com using the search function and it will find dispensaries in your area.

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If low THC is all you need, then Leafly discusses high CBD strains with low THC currently available. Google it or ask the dispensary.

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I am not going to do more than mention these three cannabinoids: THC, CBD, THCV. You can google them but do glance at my outdated 2009 cannabis website – CBD has vastly changed since then, available even at farmer’s markets and nutrition departments of groceries.

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The cannabis plant has 400 chemicals of which about 86 are known cannabinoids but we focus on just a few and hybrids have been bred to display many qualities and various percentages of cannabinoids.

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THC

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THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, can cause euphoria and is the principal psychoactive ingredient useful for pain, depression, appetite, multiple sclerosis, fatigue, stress, and many conditions including just to have fun, be giggly or creative. For the California Medical Board, a strain with 18% THC is considered high, but some strains such as Holy Grail have 27% or more THC. Some strains are noted for causing more anxiety or paranoia due to THC content. It is widely said THC is necessary for pain relief but… see CBD below.

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CBD

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CBD, cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabidiol that blocks the psychoactive component of THC so that you may be able to mix with THC in order to use a stronger dose of THC for the underlying condition —  find your best ratio of CBD to THC. Or use 100% CBD. Among strains of flower sold at dispensary, I’m not sure what % CBD

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Some people are highly sensitive to THC (paranoia, panic attacks, anxiety) and cannot use any THC or only very tiny amounts of THC with higher percentage CBD.

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Some use pure 100% CBD which is said to be useful for Crohn’s Disease, PTSD, multiple sclerosis and certain seizure disorders, the severe childhood Dravet Syndrome. There is a recent single report of an adult who failed all anticonvulsants and responded to CBD alone. I have seen a patient with depression after 2 years of severe disability from 4 major chronic pain conditions, surprisingly all pain 100% relieved by CBD. It is widely said that THC is essential for pain relief but for this case not needed.

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Some dispensaries will mix liquid CBD:THC in ratios of 15mg/mL CBD to 0.1 mg/mL CBD all the way up to ratio of 15:15 or more. Use topically, under tongue or swallow. One patient dilutes and uses topically. Very expensive!!! It is the only thing helping his extremely painful autoimmune neuropathy.

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THCV

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Leafly discusses ten strains that will not make you (as) hungry

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After discussing high CBD strains, then turn to high THCV:

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High THCV Sativa Strains

“By now you know what THC and CBD is, but you may not be familiar with the less ubiquitous THCV, a related chemical that suppresses appetite. While most strains on the market today tend to test anywhere between 10-20% THC, what’s considered a high THCV content might only hit a high-water mark of 5%. THCV tends to be more abundant in sativa strains, and it’s possible you’ve noticed that sativas tend to provoke hunger less than indica strains. The unique metabolic effects of THCV even have researchers considering its utility in treating obesity and diabetes.”

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Durban Poison is the name of the strain with highest THC and THCV, and a good profile detailed on Leafly: Maximal effect is Energetic > happy > uplifted >> focused >> euphoric. Not everyone may have all these effects.

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Always check Leafly’s negatives for each strain and look at the bar graphs — how severe are the side effects? Note that always worst is dry mouth. Half as bad are dry eyes for this strain – at least not as bad as dry mouth; and much lower in incidence is dizzy, anxious, paranoid. Overall a very good profile for a high THC strain.

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RISKS

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Note, those with Sjogren’s Syndrome who have dry eyes are at risk for corneal transplants and who have dry mouth are at risk for all teeth crumbling, so choose and treat accordingly.

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Cannabis can increase pulse and blood pressure which can be a risk of heart attack and stroke for any age. It is especially likely if you are naive to the drug, i.e. have never used it or have not introduced it to your system for decades. Check blood pressure and pulse before use and after you feel the peak effect.

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The youngest person I found on the internet who died of heart attack caused by cannabis was a healthy 17 year old male, possibly a false report, but cardiac arrhythmias can be fatal and there are undiagnosed cardiac conditions in young athletes who may be likely to use cannabis.

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Cannabis can interfere with memory.

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The adolescent developing brain may be vulnerable to harmful effects.

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HOW TO USE IT

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Vaporize it. Avoid 4 toxins. Rapid onset, short duration of effect.

If smoking, you will inhale 4 major toxins.

Use under tongue or topically on skin.

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If you swallow cannabis, you will not feel effect for 90 to 120 minutes so allow 2 hours before you add more or you may seriously overdose. Duration of effect may be 4 to 12 hours or more – overdosing can last days.

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5 mg oral THC may be too much for a starter dose for some people, but may be average for many, and some may need 10 mg. But heavy users need far, far more: TOLERANCE DEVELOPS!!! Money down the drain. Use only as much as you need or you will develop tolerance and require more frequent and higher and higher doses to reach same effect. That can be unaffordable for the average middle class person. 

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And yes, it may appear in urine for 30 to 60 days, possibly more.

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Cannabis is still a schedule I drug. The Emperor has no clothes. Do not take it onto planes or attempt to mail it.

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Do read more about it on my cannabis website linked above. It is a drug. You will benefit from learning how to use it.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

.

Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Editorial from PAIN: Hijacking the endogenous opioid system


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Neuropathic pain responds poorly to opioids, often not at all, and may become worse with treatment.

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I have seen pain improve in many after tapering off.

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Then you must treat pain without opioid; it doesn’t just disappear, but it will not be as intense. This editorial explains some of the reasons opioids become a problem.

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Excerpted from an editorial in the current issue of PAIN

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[emphasis mine]

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[COT = chronic opioid therapy]

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…..This review highlights why we may see some of the more insidious problems that occur with COT, which are summarized below.

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Individuals on COT may continue to “need” opioids to replicate the functions of endogenous opioids that are no longer being released (or are in competition with the exogenous opioids). As the review by Ballantyne and Sullivan states, “a new homeostasis is reached that can only be maintained by continued drug taking”.1 Individuals on COT lose the ability to endogenously improve mood, decrease stress, and socially engage because the endogenous opioid system becomes inherently less responsive. In pain management, we know of this need for increasing opioid dose over time to maintain analgesia as opioid tolerance. But a similar physiological phenomenon likely occurs with any endogenous opioid function. Although we have mainly anecdotal reports from individuals who have been weaned off of opioids, the change in personality, social engagement, motivation, fatigue, and mood is often profound when individuals on COT successfully taper to lower doses or off opioids. These insidious side effects of COT would all be expected to inhibit individuals from maximally engaging in the patient-centric, disease management strategies that are now recommended for all chronic pain states.

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This may also explain why it is often very difficult to taper individuals on COT completely off opioids and underscores the importance of a slow, structured weaning protocol with appropriate psychological support. It may take months or years for endogenous opioid function to return to normal after cessation of opioids, or perhaps this system never returns to normal in some patients (as seems to occur in heroin addicts).5

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This paralysis of the endogenous opioid system by COT could render ineffective many other treatments that are recommended for chronic pain and that work in part via the endogenous opioid system. Many if not most nonpharmacological therapies for pain, such as exercise, acupuncture, and many other mind-body therapies are believed to work in part by engaging endogenous analgesic pathways that are partly opioid dependent.

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Opioids have acute antistress and antidepressant effects, and many of our patients with chronic pain are taking opioids chronically to medicate their co-morbid depression, despair or distress more so than to treat pain. Brain imaging studies indicate that many brain regions typically involved in pain and sensory processing are also involved in affective regulation. Patients having chronic pain who show higher degrees of psychological comorbidity or stress might therefore desire opioids because of their temporary salutary effects on these domains, rather than for their intended analgesic effects. We need to develop better cognitive-behavioral and psychosocial interventions that target the needs of the many patients with pain experiencing more harm than benefit from opioids, but still seek these drugs to reduce their affective symptoms.

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The endogenous opioid system may actually participate in the pathogenesis of some chronic pain conditions making this class of drugs particularly problematic for some patients. Many lines of evidence suggest that individuals with more centralized pain conditions such as fibromyalgia are particularly unresponsive to opioids, and the endogenous opioid system may be participating in the pathogenesis of these conditions.2,7 This has tremendous clinical implications because it means that we may actually make these patients’ pain worse by administering opioids. These same individuals may also be those at highest risk for prolonged use of opioids initially given for acute pain, both because they need higher doses for longer durations, and they are more likely to have the psychological comorbidities that drive unintended use and misuse.

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We clearly need to re-think the focus of opioid education and screening programs in light of some of these observations. After any exposure to an opioid, especially following the very common use in the United States for treating acute pain, patients can become addicted or can misuse these drugs to treat concomitant despair, depression, or pain elsewhere in the body that would not be expected to be responsive to an opioid. As we contemplate risk evaluation and mitigation strategies to curb further opioid misuse and addiction, we need to better appreciate these common alternate paths to unintended uses of opioids.

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We are not the first field to underappreciate the consequences of hijacking a critical endogenous system for one purpose, only to eventually find that there are significant consequences. Following the discovery of the endogenous corticosteroid system, Hench and others found that cortisone was an extremely effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and this revolutionized our treatment of inflammatory processes. But it took several decades to fully appreciate all of the intermediate and long-term side effects of chronic corticosteroid use.4 Nearly all of these under-recognized issues were due to off target effects of exogenous corticosteroids on critical endogenous functions of these hormones. Although the short-term effects of opioids have been understood for centuries, long-term, high-dose opioids have only been advocated for a few decades. It is likely that we are now witnessing a similar clinical phenomenon, and as we increasingly appreciate the off-target effects of repurposing a critical endogenous system, the pendulum needs to rapidly swing back towards caution with prescribing a class of drugs that have a plethora of serious side effects other than addiction and death from overdose.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Best wishes to all!


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Please ignore the Advertising – has nothing to do with me.

Companies out of the pain business, NOT a hotbed of innovation, NOT COVERED by insurers


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Bloomberg news published this analysis below that explains much of the dead end in pain medication:

  • companies got out of the pain business.
  • there is no hope in sight for effective analgesics
  • insurers refuse coverage for more and more pain medications
  • insurers refuse coverage for modalities except opioids

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What kind of medical system:

  • forces patients to seek street drugs for pain relief because they are cheaper?
  • fails to treat addicts?
  • fails to allow cannabis (medical marijuana) one of the safest drugs ever discovered for pain and symptom management?

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The whole field is a sham ruled by politicians through CDC fiat and the justice department, subject to radical changes:

  •  a threat to your care
  • a threat to the field of pain management
  • a brick wall to any professional contemplating entering the field
    • pain management is complex & time consuming
    • most chronic pain patients have 3 or more pains
    • each pain requires assessment
    • risks patient addiction and/or suicide
    • risks loss of license
  • constant change
    • prior authorizations from insurers refused on appeal
    • disability refused for disabling pain
    • onerous computerized opioid database that is not nationwide, not fully completed by pharmacists
    • threats from patients, addicts, DEA, attorney general
    • highly politicized
    • good specialists thrown in jail despite expert testimony of foremost pain specialists – after testimony of addicts who reduced their sentence with lies
    • poor coverage of modalities if any for P.T., acupuncture, massage, integrative pain management, psychology, biofeedback, psychiatry, cannabis, compounded medications
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Here’s the article, click title to read in full.
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For the drug industry, building a better pain pill is a problem.

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Pharmaceutical companies have introduced new medicines to treat dependence, reverse overdoses, and deal with opioids’ side effects. But few effective and economically viable alternatives to addictive painkillers have emerged from the laboratory.

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That’s because of broken incentives, according to economists and industry experts. The payment policies of insurers and government health programs, along with pressure from investors, have encouraged drugmakers to treat the symptoms of the opioid epidemic but discouraged innovations that might get to the root of the problem.

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New therapies for pain have generally been too expensive, too cumbersome to use, or targeted at too small a group of patients….

 

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Different Incentives

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The incentives to develop a better pain pill differ sharply from those in other areas of research, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

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Drugmakers have spent billions on more than 100 failed medicines for Alzheimer’s, but a breakthrough would potentially reach a large and lucrative population of elderly patients on Medicare. Any new pain drug would be fighting it out with inexpensive, proven rivals in a politically fraught environment.

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The White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated this week that abuse of opioids cost the economy about $504 billion in 2015, or nearly three percent of that year’s overall economic output in the U.S. Those costs include health-care expenses, spending on criminal justice and first responders, and lost worker productivity.

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“There’s currently a lot more costs of addiction that are being borne by society in a more diffuse way,” said Kosali Simon, a health economist at Indiana University….

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Effort and Expense

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Most opioids are cheap generic drugs that have been prescribed for decades, making the effort and expense of developing new painkillers hard to justify.

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“They’re off-patent, they can be produced by companies that aren’t the original inventors,” said Bertha Madras, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School and a member of President Donald Trump’s opioid commission. “It becomes a much more expensive proposition to develop and get the approval for an opioid.”

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Drugmakers have instead invested in developing complex medicines for cancer and rare diseases, which can fetch six-figure price tags.

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“Companies got out of the pain business,” said Pratap Khedkar of ZS Associates, a sales and marketing consultant who studies the pharmaceutical industry. “It’s not the hotbed of innovation.”…..

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Wary Payers

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Drug plans have been reluctant to pay for abuse-resistant pain medicines, which often cost more and can be more difficult to administer. A recent report from The Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, a nonprofit that evaluates the value of prescription drugs, found that abuse-deterrent opioids weren’t cost-effective for insurers.

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At the same time, payers are limiting patients’ access to older pain drugsCigna Corp.took OxyContin off its list of preferred drugs for 2018, though it still covers other opioids. CVS Health Corp. said its pharmacy-benefits management arm will limit prescriptions to a seven-day supply, and Express Scripts Holding Co. also said it wouldcurb prescriptions.

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That leaves patients with a difficult choice. Abuse-deterrent painkillers might cost as much as $250 out of pocket. But generic opioids cost as little as $2, according to Denis Patterson, a pain specialist in Reno, Nevada.

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Abuse-resistant drugs get “denied 90 percent of the time. But the pain pills will get approved every single time,” said Patterson.

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“Shouldn’t it be flipped,” he said, “in that the things which can get people better should have better coverage?”…..

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Insurers Deny Opioids, CVS Refuses to Fill Unless Authorized


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Always something new in this amazing field of pain management where treatment is decided by politicians and insurers.

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Patients and physicians alike have suffered denial of medications without prior authorization for the last 10 years or more. Prior authorization takes enormous time, at times more than one hour for each medication.  Try to picture a full day of seeing patients and an unexpected full day just for prior authorizations that must be fitted into the hours the insurer is open – remember, examiners often leave early, central time, hours ahead of PST. 

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Insurers deny the usual opioid because there is no proof that opioids have ever been proven to help chronic pain and side effects may include constipation, cognitive impairment, overdose and/or death.  

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Insurers routinely deny opioid at lower dosages when I try to taper: giving less is not allowed without prior authorization. Remember, we don’t find out until the patient goes to the pharmacy to fill, and they may wait to fill, then may need the medication that very night to continue their medication. Who is open after hours? 

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One independent 94 year old senior for years has been on fentanyl 12 mcg/hr patch and Oxycontin 10 mg in AM (not PM) for frozen shoulders and arthritis in knees. These are small doses. Denied for 3 or 4 years, so she paid out of pocket, in her 90’s. 

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She walks with a rollator, and wins at bridge games that she plays several times a week. Under my care since 2003, physical therapy has been unsuccessful. With her orthopedist, she receives injections every three months that help arthritis in knees. We had tried appeals including sending entire chart to insurer that included physical therapy note, but insurer insisted on physical therapy again. I asked them to show me one, simply ONE publication that showed physical therapy helpful for severe frozen shoulders present for decades. 

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Now pharmacy refuses to fill her 10 mg Oxycontin and her patch unless insurer authorizes. Her oxygen saturation is 98% which is excellent. Cognitive function is unchanged since 2003. I cannot imagine how she gets dressed as even a few degrees of motion of either shoulder elicits screams of pain. Her daytime caregiver must be dressing her. 

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That’s how we treat our injured, our disabled and our elderly.

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Insurers have authorized $50,000 spinal cord stimulators for years without a single study showing long term proof of efficacy. The potential for permanent damage to spinal cord and potential for accelerated pain syndromes is frightening. See the many comments on this site from patients who have suffered serious medical injury. 

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NIH has failed to adequately fund pain research for decades. But congress has accepted millions from opioid manufacturers and for years FDA approved one new opioid after another, as often as 4 new ones each year. FDA previously approved a nonopioid medication such as Lyrica for neuropathic pain, but in the last few years, a nonopioid Horizant has been approved only for postherpetic neuralgia pain — nerve pain, but only ONE type of nerve pain. Remember, insurers mandate first trying gabapentin for nerve pain, though it was never FDA approved for pain at all. Try to get an off-label non-opioid medication approved for pain. hah!

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Now I have an RN in her 40’s who has severe nerve pain from CRPS in both upper limbs after carpal tunnel surgery. Gabapentin caused severe cognitive dysfunction, improved on Horizant but insurers refused to approve Horizant. The cost for one daily is at least $750, but pain is better using twice daily.

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This week comes a letter from insurer that Revia, naltrexone 50 mg tablet FDA approved for addiction to opioids and alcohol, is no longer covered.

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Psychiatry colleagues tell me the same story. Antidepressants that also help anxiety are not covered but better than taking Xanax that causes memory loss and can be used to overdose.

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Vote for better politicians, not for lies. Insist on NIH research funding for chronic pain management to represent the vast population with chronic pain, not the pittance they allow. 

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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