Spinal Cord Stimulators – comment on RSD


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Spinal Cord Stimulators 

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 Craig’s comment

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By no means do I mean to say that I or anyone else has better insight into how to treat pain, but I am against spinal cord stimulators [SCS’s] for treatment of pain due to CRPS, and possibly against use in other situations. I demand that the billions in profit they made be put into a retrospective and prospective study of damage caused by them in order for them to give full informed consent.

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I have 3 goals writing this.

  1. SCS’s

  2. Craig’s experience

  3. The Only Real Answer for severe pain, not damaging the system with opioids

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Informed consent is never given for spinal cord stimulators because it requires truth telling, something our corporations have been reluctant to do. Business ethics are not medical ethics, as we keep being reminded daily in the headlines.

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I enclose, below, a generously expressed and detailed comment by a man who had the patience to sit down and  write the painfully gory details so you can weigh-in on your decision whether to follow your pain specialist’s opinion to give you one. I don’t want anyone to feel suckered into choosing them and if I had pain I’ll admit I’d crave relief too. Anything. I’d be in line before the doors open.

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But if you have CRPS, spinal cord stimulators will create more pain. CRPS evolves unpredictably, by a will of its own. I know some very desperate patients with CRPS everywhere including face, mouth, gums, tongue, organs, trunk, limbs. Spinal cord stimulators will create more pain. Keep in mind, I don’t see the 5 year success stories even for lumbar disc pain. They don’t need me if they are pain free.

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But if you have CRPS and desperate need for pain relief because all else has failed — every known drug in highest possible doses of ketamine, propofol, opioids for weeks in ICU fail to even touch pain— there is one thing, and only one thing to do and I will set it out below. I just sent my recommendation to a patient with CRPS in extreme pain.

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My recommendation, below, is for patients who have nowhere else to turn.

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First I’ll mention the problems Craig encountered with SCS’s. He sent his comment to the opening page of this blog, so I will reproduce below. 

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I am currently undergoing a trial Medtronic SCS. I have had to have it reprogrammed 3 times since it was installed 5 days ago. I have had sensations and issues that I have addressed with my rep and my neurosurgeon. I get a severe headache when the unit is turned on. I get the constant feeling of having to urinate. I have current running through my testicles which they can not seem to program out and I am getting little pain relief. I have had to failed back surgeries, many failed injections and I have CRPS. The leads that were inserted when I was in the table covered my mid back and both legs. After I got to my feet and waited while they programmed the unit in another room. They came in and plugged it in and I no longer had coverage on the right side. My crps is in both legs, my hands, arms and face. The lyrica helped to tamp down some of the burning but I am in pain 24/7 and this was my last resort. I have scar tissue completely surrounding my S1 nerve. By the grace of God, I am on my feet, on crutches. I seem to get a look of disbelief when I tell them the unit is causing these issues or it’s not giving me the relief I was counting on. Relief, only to cause greater issues and pain. Is not relief to me. I can not wait to get this trial out of my back. I believe the leads slipped and that is why I am not getting the full coverage I had on the table. The issues I have had are as follows: severe headache, constant feeling of having to urinate, extreme joint pain, abdominal pain, sleeplessness, involuntary jerking, surges in current even when sitting still. Intense pain around the lead insertion site. Current uncomfortably running through my testicles, regardless of setting. It is my opinion there is still not a lot known about crps and I have read evidence of people have great success with these units. Everyone reacts differently. My body obviously creates a lot of scar tissue and my orthopedic surgeon created a fair amount herself. I can’t imagine even more or being forced into a chair for yet another unlucky decision. The medication helps and I have lived this far without the optimism that it would end soon. I had high hoed for this device but I don’t think it is right for me.

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One of my patients with CRPS was hospitalized for weeks with recurring unusual abscesses and required repeated surgery of hand and forearm. Even before surgery, she had failed opioids, failed ketamine, and was in ICU for weeks and weeks while the same medications were still given along with Propofol and IV Tylenol. Nothing helps her extreme pain.

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Anesthesiologists on staff in ICU threw everything they had at the pain for weeks. Most anesthesia pain doctors would have probably done what they did because that is the limit of tools we have.

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When you have hit the limit of benefit from opioids, ketamine, propofol, we have nothing else that treats pain with one exception: drug holiday.

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Stop all analgesics including Tylenol that destroys the liver as severely as cancer, the severity of which was newly discovered and published yesterday.

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The receptors for these analgesic drugs have up-regulated to such an extent they have caused the situation. Again, I stress, everything that was done during the ICU admissions would be done by any anesthesiology pain specialist. Those are the only tools. They cause the problem. The same for opioid induced hyperalgesia. We used to do it with Parkinson’s drugs in the 80’s.

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The only way to rehabilitate the up-regulation of all those receptors that have now exploded in numbers, immune to anything you throw at them, is stop the drugs.  Stop all of them for weeks, maybe months, years, no one knows, you are all the human guinea pig waiting to happen. But if we restart them, how long do we wait, how quickly will it again lead to this massive hyper-excitable state of pro-inflammatory cytokines that we know have gone wild, flooding the CNS. A flooded engine will not restart.

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Ketamine at least is known to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, but the system is too busy exploding, birthing new receptors that take over, and you’ve got a 55 car pile up. Well, more like millions I’d guess. No scientist here. Clnically, when can we resume something after a drug holiday, how soon and which drug? I’d avoid opioids because they create more pro-inflammatory cytokines. Choose ketamine, because they reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, but if it works at all, stop it at first sign of tolerance, which is the need for increased dose. It becomes less effective. Walk a fine line, endure more pain because unless you do, it will no longer help. Opioids, analgesics of many kinds. 

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How do we get you through a drug holiday because we know withdrawing these drugs will trigger even more pain for possibly weeks until the system settles down?

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Pain storms, hurricanes

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This is complex regional pain syndrome where we see this insanity of pain storms. There is no other condition, unless several neuropathic pains in people with cancer, nowhere I have seen this type of pain in decades except CRPS – comparable to pain of subarrachnoid hemorrhage, blinding pain.

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No one has answers. None. One university does outpatient infusions of ketamine six hours daily for 8 to 12 weeks. Does it help? A small percentage. Outpatient, 6 hours daily, 5 days a week, staying at a hotel, 8 weeks.

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This is CRPS/RSD. No one has answers. It is futile to throw more of the drug in the system. That is my opinion. You have a choice and may choose otherwise. It is your body. You may stay on monthly opioids for decades, until you finally admit how poorly they work. A drug holiday is what we did in the 70s during my ancient training with Parkinson’s patients. They needed full 24-hour support. The American medical system has changed since then and those are not options currently available—cost.

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You need full psychological and psychiatric support.

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The Only Real Answer

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The country needs to invest $10 million to complete the clinical trials needed for an injectable, long-lasting interleukin 10 [IL-10], the anti-inflammatory cytokine. It already has full scientific and animal studies performed by and with the world’s foremost glial scientist at University of Colorado Boulder. Professor Linda Watkins has won awards from many countries. She has been the keynote speaker at the annual academy pain meetings for years. IL-10 can relieve pain for three months in animals that have intractable chronic neuropathic pain. This is not new —–NIH I’m looking at you to fund clinical trials. And those of you who care, do a Kickstarter to fund the clinical trials.

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This is the power of the innate immune system. NIH would rather fund research on the unknowns like stem cells rather than the known. It’s known for decades, NIH does not like to fund pain research. Glia are not all about pain. They are the innate immune system, the key to Alzheimer’s, neurodegenerative diseases, almost all known disease including atherosclerosis. It’s all about inflammation. We need the trials to stop giving drugs that cause inflammation, opioids —–CDC fiats are not as good as a drug that relieves pain, a drug that really works on mechanism. Where will the addicts go if the ER only has IL-10 for pain? That is one way to overspend on ER visits.  And NIH, please get us some real clinical research funding on how to use glia for our benefit. Get us some research on the entourage effect, combining medications to achieve relief especially for neuropathic pain.

Then bring on some crack negotiating teams from insurers to do some negotiation about pharmaceutical prices. Our new president has mentioned that.

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Please bring this to everyone’s attention. One way to get a grip on pain and/or depression is to build hope, help others, and energize behind a goal.

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Kickstarters work to raise tens of millions overnight. 

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IL-10 – animals have been shown to be pain free for three months, already proven in animal studies, by one of the world’s most widely acknowledged pain specialists Professor Linda Watkins, PhD. We need the final steps to fund the clinical trials in humans.

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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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If you wish an appointment, please telephone the office to schedule.

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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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Off opioids, pain better. Life is back!


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We have all seen pain go down when patients taper off opioids. Look down many paragraphs to see a case report near the end.

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I prescribe opioids for intractable pain, but I have never seen opioids take pain to zero on a sustained basis, year after year – I have seen glial modulators with the specific off-label combinations of medications do that. Chosen because of mechanism: neuro-inflammation that we know is present in chronic pain or chronic depression and recently reported in teens with early psychosis. Inflammation. Brain on fire – imaginary fire, skin is burning, shooting, pulsing, changing from ice to hot, unable to tolerate light touch, sunlight.

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You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to read the brilliant science that’s come out since 1991 that has changed neuroscience more profoundly than anything I’ve ever seen – many prizes given from many countries. Ignored by docs – don’t blame them. Not everyone is able to take the risk to be different in medicine. It is NOT rewarded. Doctors can just ignore patients now after 30 years of living with pain 10 on scale of 10, pain now zero. Like one of my patients best care for 8 years, told to live with pain that was 8 on scale of 10 constant, unvarying, burning.

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You never will see that with opioids, procedures, pumps, stims, blocks, biofeedback. Most of my patients with intractable pain from hell, been there, done that at the top places: Boston, Philly, Cleveland, Mayo, years of grueling P.T. Kids get the worst. No drugs for pain until after age 18 – pediatricians need to be studied what they do, and oncologists need to be studied again. I know a top hospital in the country where for decades not one oncologist ever called for a pain consults – decade after decade. I know too many stories from too many top places about how cancer pain is not treated as well as it could be because of opiophobia perhaps, but there are so many other things done for cancer pain – oncologists refuse.

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The oncologist at a famous hospital in Beverly Hills that will go unnamed, threatened the grandmother of my UCLA Pain Clinic colleague, an MD Pain Specialist, who had come with her grandmother. Oncologist threatened the 90 year old woman: “If you want pain medicine, find another oncologist.”

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Any hospital would sooner get rid of pain specialists – they don’t bring money to the hospital like cardiologists who get streams of patients from around the country. In Houston, Netherlands would load a jumbo jet full of patients who needed heart surgery, fly them Sunday to Baylor and fly them back home end of week after heart surgery. Every single week, a plane full. These are GODS!

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Your pain is a low priority on the scale of gods. Excuse my tone. It breaks my heart to see every pediatric nurse threaten to walk off the entire floor if the MD did not call a pain consult. And I read in nurses notes, line after line after line the same thing for 3 months: “Patient screaming in pain.”

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I diagnosed the problem that they overlooked – every spinal nerve root coming off every level of spine was lighted up like a tiny 1″ band of pearls each side. This 17 year old athletic muscular tall male had lost 45 lbs of muscle, unable to move, screaming, 2 nurses required to bravely try to roll him onto his side to change sheets and toilet in bed, him screaming, perhaps rigid – I was never there then. Ignored by one of the world’s foremost oncologist for three months. The humanity of it.

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I’ve seen worse.

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GODS. These men are GODS. As a junior faculty, you do not look them in the eye, ask a question, or even speak to them. He was one of the best in the world, perhaps the very best, #1 – God of Leukemia, not god of pain so intense the lightest touch of skin elicits severe pain.

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That’s called allodynia. Slight touch, just a breath of air, very very slight touch = SEVERE PAIN.

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Nerve pain when severe does that. It can be focal or widespread, every where, like his. He had the mentality of an 8 year old, but loved playing basketball. Leukemia brought him in, and you cannot see leukemia on scans or xrays. Are you going to tell a GOD that pain exists in people with leukemia? – malignant blood cells and pain. No, no, no.  No one of the leukemia service was ever allowed to call a pain consult at a world famous cancer hospital. You would be fired. Career over. Mom was trying to raise the money to treat this leukemia. $30,000 she did not have.

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So many case reports I could write. But it never changes. Patient calls after decades of intractable pain. I have had them taper off opioids slowly before I see them. I assess whether I want to take them as patients. They’ve been to Europe and across the US, the best places, nothing has helped. Even ketamine coma in Germany, it did not last but boy it caused PTSD. You cannot give those doses of a psychoactive drug to brain. Ketamine is a short acting drug. No matter how you give it. The dose is different for everyone. They burned through her threshold and PTSD could not even be discussed, it was so bad.

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I never use ketamine alone – only with certain combinations, and later, my patients may not need ketamine again. Pain free. Not everyone becomes pain free, but it occurs so regularly that it’s almost hard to fall off my chair so many times with the results. It used to be a surprise many years ago and I would always fall off my chair. It has become regular. No surprises. This is getting old and sad no one knows how to do it. Pradigm shifts do not just occur, and not without publications, studies, one slow drug after another. That’s not the way you are ever going to get results – study only one single drug for 10/10 pain present for years to decades. When disabled 30 years, the standard for research is to study one drug. That’s fine for mild conditions.

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It’s incomprehensible to think one drug alone is going to budge intractable intractable pain or depression. And difficult for me to understand patients who think one drug alone will do everything though they have failed so many classes of medications for years or for decades. One drug is not adequate to restore balance in the complex system of transmitters, receptors and DNA changes.

Wrong thin

Mechanical pain complicates things and must not be overlooked even though it may be “minor” compared to the bear in other parts of the body. Wrong thinking. All pain ends up upstairs in the big lake at top (brain). Not minor. Never has anyone found a pill that can do better than mechanics of the spine or limbs.

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My new patients have already been through every known form of interdisciplinary treatment at the worlds best pain clinics. You all know that entails a number of specialists as a team – you do the work, mind and body. Done by most of my patients before they see me. Past History.

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Once off opioids:

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My focus is on neuroimmunopharmacology. Read January 2011, the innate immune system. There must be a balance between anti-inflammatory cytokines and pro-inflammatory cytokines. The pro-inflammatory cytokines are too high, out of balance. Let’s modulate them, restore balance.

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Lovely to see people better. It makes me want to go to work. I suspect CRPS may respond best to these medications  but I have seen many other syndromes respond well – but remember, no treatment is 100%. I see impossible cases. It would be a miracle if anyone saw 100% remission or cure in their medical practice. But the combinations of medication I am using are certainly life saving for many of the toughest.

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Mechanics – so many patients have groaned when I said I felt they had to see the physical therapist I refer to. Groans. 30 years of P.T. never helped, they say. After seeing Bruce, they come back smiling. Bruce says these are basic things he does. Well, didn’t help my patients. Not one of the best university centers in the country where my patients have been for 3 to 6 months, never helped one bit. Bruce says it’s basic. Bruce is unique, certified orthopedic physical therapist – most never get that high degree. Decades after training at the famous rehab center Rancho Los Amigos from whence books were published, basics of orthopedics and rehab. After seeing Bruce, patients come back smiling, awed. I am shocked there is still so much crap P.T. out there. I thought all this changed after the new manual P.T. was brought to the US before 1980. Yikes.

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Opioids. How many use them for anxiety instead of pain, misreading and confusing what you are treating yourself with. They work great for anxiety, but America – you must learn better ways to cope and opioids are not to be used for anxiety. I hear the groans and downright refusals. A few years later, one of my older guys has nowhere to go, nothing helps but the opioids and his body will not tolerate more. Not one coping skill was going to get near him years ago. If his wife couldn’t do everything for him, then his caregiver would. He wasn’t going to have it. Granddad is a very proud businessman who cuts himself off from family, they should not see he has a walker.

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Opioids ain’t the answer. But sometimes we have no better – in limits. Only after other things, glial modulators should be tried first. How many of you have seen results with gabapentin? Maybe I just only see the ones who’ve failed everything.

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I frequently see people who are better off opioids than on, but then, then what do MD’s do about that pain that may be still 6 out of 10 or worse? They don’t have an answer. And are not curious to figure out what to do with the new science. They have been trained the old way. Nothing new but hope for a new drug from pharma some day.

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I am writing so far off track. I hope you understand a little of this rapidly changing antediluvian field and that some places are still in the Middle Ages where we don’t treat pain at all. How do they get away with that? It’s not a priority anywhere. NIH gave one half of 1% to pain research in 2008. Really? !?!!

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CASE REPORT

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Many paragraphs ago, I was planning to write to tell you about a case, 2nd visit so much better! and a lot of that is simply due to being off opioids 6 weeks after 6 years on them. Falling asleep from opioids for how many years—  imagine an MD taking on a patient who said they need a new pain doctor because their old doctor cut them back and will not give them a dose that helps. Makes you wonder if they were falling asleep and getting any oxygen to the brain. I find myself in that position when people call for new appointment. I hate to be the one to tell you I am not going to increase your opioid but many other pain doctors will. Soon this nice person sitting by my desk would have been one of those opioid deaths the headlines tell us about. This person today sitting next to me, happy she is off, and better!

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She is not drugged, pain is down and it changed character/quality, still rated 6 on a 10 scale, but she is doing more, actually waking up alive instead of zombie until 5 pm, walking. Walking – that’s the biggest.

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She has CRPS for 6 years as well as pain of the entire spinal axis. Failed gabapentin, Lyrica, Spinal cord stimulator – implanted 2013.

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At the first visit Jan 25, one month ago, she had tapered opioids in 3 weeks [far too fast], and was off for 6 days, lost 15 lbs – opioid  fluid retention. I ask people to be off 2 weeks before seeing me but she was in crisis. Most of the time she was lying down elevating BLE’s [both lower extremities] as it reduces pain in feet and RLE. She used to play two soccer games back to back without a sweat 6 years ago.

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“And I feel better. I always felt like my insides were swollen,” brain fog – unable to read, blurred vision – improving, “and the character of the pain seems different. The nerve pain used to feel like I had a huge halo and if you just touched the halo, not the skin, it was unbearable. I feel like the halo sensation was severely diminished. My sister also said I am walking better than I ever had – I was just weaning off then.“

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Before seeing me, she had been on MSContin 30 mg x 3/day with MSIR 15 twice daily or on methadone 80 mg in past. Pain then was rated 6. Today, 2nd visit, off opioids for 6 weeks, pain 6/10. But walking.

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2nd visit, 4 weeks later

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Her prior “biofeedback therapist told me I should write a book.” Helped in some ways, just to teach me better body mechanics to minimize pain. Did both temp and pulse and wore EKG-type patches on her back for muscle feedback.

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Now using desensitization – on dorsum hands able to use loufa, and can use a special rough soap on palms she could not tolerate before. Dorsum left hand is nearly normal.

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Pain on opioids was “6 to 7 but different character, I’m much improved now,” ranging 4 to 7, average 5. “I could live with this.” It’s lower. I used to always say I want to cut off my leg, and I haven’t said that in at least a month.

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Foot felt so swollen like it was gonna pop, and be so cold, made it very difficult with pins and needles to put a sock or shoes on. The occurrence is much less and when it happens it feels less severe.

Still has mild swelling “more what I perceive than what I see.” Her friends say she is not a zombie anymore. She wakes up and is out of bed.

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“If I concentrate very hard, I think I can walk without a limp, but I think I need some retraining.”

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We have barely begun much treatment. She is on her way back to life. 

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I have seen patients become even better simply off opioids.

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You must treat the whole person: the mind, body and spirit.

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Physical Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Biofeedback, Medication, Procedures.

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Compounded medications are the key. Thank the insurance industry for not supporting anything but opioids. I can’t even prescribe Namenda off-label for a patient with dementia because her dementia is not Alzheimers or Vascular, mild or moderate only. She has traumatic brain injury with CRPS and I prescribe Namenda (memantine) in double dose – good science behind that, published around 2001 when I starting prescribing for pain. Now I see the best migraine docs doing it in the last year. I don’t know when they began using it.

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Namenda (memantine) not covered. Unless … two things are possible.

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But compounded medications are essential for these combinations of medication. What is this country doing to its injured veterans? Opioids do not work. But their mechanical spine joints needs are serious and I know it is not being addressed because manual physical therapists are hard for me to find in this age, only 40 years since it was brought to the US from British Commonwealth and Scandinavian countries. Impossible to find, to trust you have a good one, and far beyond that, Bruce is awesome. How difficult is it to train better physical therapists? Or upgrade teaching from the theoretical that all these shiny new PhD’s in physical therapy. But get me the clinical experience, Orthopedic Physical Therapist because Bruce is awesome. No other word for what he has done to unwind the cause of CRPS in the ribs after thoracic surgery. Drugs can only get you so far. The mechanics become everything and they can take your body to more pain than you will ever dream of unless mechanics are properly addressed. My local patients may live 2 hours away from Bruce. That is not feaseable.

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Obesity.

Then, the elephant in the room. Guardian just now reports Penguins on a Treadmill, Study shows fat ones fall over more often than slim ones. How can we help those of us who will not be helped? Sanity does not prevail in politics and thou shalt not forbid 80 teaspoons of sugar in each can of “energy” drinks. America waddling onward into disablity. Sanity in politics. Behavior. As a great sage said: “You cannot uncurl the curly tail of a pig.” 

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Behavior is the hardest for me to change myself. I know. I don’t care how old you are, let’s wake up! and get you back to life. Off opioids. So many of us give up too little food on our plate or treats. You do not have to exercise to do that.

 

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The problem remains:

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You have to be rich enough to get decent care for intractable pain in this country. Rich enough to afford the compounded medications that used to be covered by insurance – do these guys cover anything anymore? The business reeks like the rest of the 1%. Same people. The big three: energy, pharma, insurance. Waves of anger across the country. The Middle Class is disappearing and they cannot afford an extra $300 a month for medication without family struggle. Stagnation.

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Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are riding on that anger, and Democrats are shifting to Trump who, as Jeb Lund writes, with his “gallimaufry of disconnected thoughts” has the money to put his bombast into action. He destroyed his running mates. Lund goes on:

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“a billionaire beholden to no one and able to abuse every disingenuous and pettifogging remora latched headfirst on the nation and sucking upward.”

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“If the system is already so broken that it abandoned you, its preservation is not your concern. Hell, burning it down might be what you want most.”

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“Anger has a clarity all its own. It renders most detail extraneous….It is not to be underestimated….”

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His “disgusting behavior gets paired with the sight of Trump humiliating establishment empty suits like ….X….stuffed shirts like…Y…. party pets like…Z….. and habitual liars like…W…..” Trump is “lying in service of exposing another government predator.” 

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He will destroy Clinton. The politician who panders to money will be blown away by Trump. People respect that.  No one cares what his policies are.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

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Senate Bill 483: Every person with a chronic pain condition is adversely affected by new opioid prescribing laws.


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Support Senate Bill 48e if you want doctors to practice pain management, rather than trust your pain medication in the hands of the police, CDC, and FDA. See letter below from the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association.

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I don’t know anyone who wants the CDC to slash the dose of opioids and disregard specialist’s judgement: CDC proposes a radical experiment in rather violent cuts in dose, across the board, with no research, and under harsh pressure. Everyone will suffer because elected and appointment officials act from fear of addiction, fearof suicide among addicts, and prompted by anti-opioidists, against the judgement of the American Pain Society. Why bother accepting judgement of trained specialists? Plug in the Robotic AI and fall into line. The rich person in pain will do what they want, as they always have. But those dependent on healthcare insurers have already seen them deny 20 mg morphine per day, not the 100 mg per day that CDC wants radically cut.

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Addiction is a brain disease.

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Do you seriously think you will treat addiction and deaths from illegal street drugs by cutting the analgesic dose of pain patients?

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Do you think Philip Seymour Hoffman wanted to kill himself? I don’t. But he had no way to guarantee the dose he was using, and had to hide his addiction on his bathroom floor, hiding from friends and family. Imagine a safe clinic, rescue medication. He wanted no more addiction counselors. He wanted his drug

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Give addicts their drug. Free drug. Safe clinics. Standby with rescue meds. Whatever they want. Do we want them to choose theft and murder so they can get their $1.3 million each year for drug. Opioids, amphetamines cost pennies. Give it free.

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Would you throw your diabetic grandmother in jail? You’re not an addict. Why are they smashing your dose. You will suffer, it ain’t gonna be easy.

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Haven’t we learned from prohibition? From research in Portugal, and 11 countries, free clinics for drugs of abuse save billions. It saves lives. Leave our pain patients treatment in our hands. Why should CDC practice pain management when all they care about is addiction, death, overdoses?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that the 28,647 deaths from prescription opioids and heroin in 2014 were a record. The agency said that more than six in 10 drug overdose deaths were caused by opioids that year.

West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 2014. North Dakota, New Hampshire, Maine, New Mexico and Alabama saw the largest increases in their death rates.

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Honey, CDC don’t care about pain. The public cares about addiction, all their girls and boys dying from prescriptions.

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Wake up and legalize all drugs, offer free clinics, free drugs, and voluntary behavioral therapy. It will save the country billions of dollars, pain patients will no longer get treated like addicts, you will get rid of narco-mafias – drugs are free! ferew murders, crime, deaths.

 

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What kind of crazy fails to learn from research – Portugal and 11 countries that legalized drugs – and fails to learn Prohibition breeds crime.

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One of my patients found another pain specialist because she didn’t want to hear all this. It makes her nervous. She wants her drugs. Ain’t gonna work for long. Bury your head in the sand. The country does not care about pain: they will not invest in pain research. Live with it.

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America cares about addiction. Deaths. Headlines. Votes.

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Every person with a chronic pain condition is adversely affected by new opioid prescribing laws.
Supporting Senate Bill 483 is our best opportunity to receive federal protection for access to pain care.
February 10, 2016

Dear NFMCPA Supporter,

None of us like controversy. I’m writing because as people with chronic pain, we are unavoidably being caught up in the U.S. national efforts to end opioid abuse. National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA) is very concerned and has heard from many of you who are desperate about not being able to find pain relief.  Recent opioid policies address the many overdose deaths in the addiction community while significantly restricting the ability of pain patients to receive healthcare.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote this Thursday, February 11, 2016, on Senate Bill 483:  “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015.”  The NFMCPA supports Senate Bill 483, and we urgently ask for you to contact your U.S. Senator(s) and let them know of your support for this legislation if you live in AL, AZ, CA, IL, IA, DE, VT, NY, SC, TX, UT, RI, MN, LA, CT, GA, or NC, or know someone in those states who can take action.  An easy way to do that is to click here for the quick link on our website.  A copy of the bill can be found by clicking here.

Chronic pain is a disease.  People with life-altering pain suffer more now as a consequence of new opioid prescribing policies affecting their access to prescribed pain medications. Doctors don’t have effective treatment alternatives to offer, mostly due to the lack of insurance coverage and minimal scientific research of adjunct therapies. People with pain must take action to have these major access to care barriers included in the national conversation about prescription opioid medications.
Chronic pain seizes the brain. I know what I’m talking about. And so do you. It stops your thinking, your activity, and wears you out. Your body becomes afraid of more pain and that it will never stop. This pain becomes impossible to live with 24/7.
Chronic pain solutions belong in the presidential candidate primary debates and on the agenda of every member of Congress. The national “debate” about opioids is not a debate at all. It is a national effort to create legislation and policy at every level to drastically cut access to opioid medications, with little or no regard for millions of people with chronic pain who rely on these medications for pain relief. When individuals cannot get necessary care, unmanaged pain harms quality of life, relationships, and the ability to work and sleep.  Directly or indirectly, chronic pain touches every member of the community and their families.
Thank you for taking a few minutes to support legislation that will help us for a lifetime.
Sincerely,
Jan Chambers
President
info@fmcpaware.org
National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association
31 Federal Avenue
Logan, UT 84321
email: info@fmcpaware.org

Exactly 100 Years Since Drugs Banned in US and Europe


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It’s exactly 100 years since drugs have been banned in the United States and Europe. 

 

ADDICTION

Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong

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| Johann Hari | TED Talks

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“We don’t impose that on the rest of the world.”

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“We take addicts and punish them and make them suffer because we believe that will deter them, to give them an incentive to stop.”

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“Is there a better way to help them?”

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He traveled to many places, including “to the only country that has ever decriminalized all drugs from cannabis to crap: Portugal.”

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“And I realized almost everything we ever knew about addiction is wrong.”

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I recommend reading Heroin Century. It’s an exciting read, extremely well written, actually a “page-turner.” It will help you to understand how prohibition creates addiction and drug wars and narco-states that now have more gold than the rest of the countries in the world combined.

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The book helps us understand why giving addicts free access to any drug of addiction they desire, in clean settings, where they can get the exact predictable doses they want, and have a rescue remedy available by trained personnel if needed, why that helps. Do the research. They do not die. They do not give each other or give their loved ones HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. It gets rid of drug cartels that have completely taken over many countries in the world. It reduces violence, theft, murder, guns. It may even help doctors stop treating cancer patients like addicts.

 

Once you calculate the cost of street drugs – each addict has to find more than $1 million each year to feed their addiction – you can easily understand how much violence this breeds. It is not only less expensive to give free drugs in supervised, clean addiction centers that also offer treatment for addiction if the addict desires, but addiction is a medical condition. Treatment is humane and it saves lives.

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Addiction is found in families of the poor, rich and middle class, in farmlands, suburbia and inner cities. One trillion dollars has gone to drug wars that breed more drugs and more war with no treatment. None. Now CDC wants to sharply reduce access to pain medicine for people with chronic pain including chronic cancer pain. That is the wrong answer to 28,000 plus deaths from opioids in 2014. Opioid deaths are growing and CDC sharply cuts everyone’s access to pain medication. Sweet. Solved!

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Simply ask if your healthcare insurance has ever covered behavioral therapy? And for how many short weeks do they limit treatment? That’s just the start. Most psychiatrists I know will not accept insurance because reimbursement is so low. And this country will not “pander” to anyone who has any emotional problems much less addiction. Buck up America! That’s the attitude in Congress, and insurers know exactly how to read the tone that elects them. It’s not hard, just ask anyone in your family who will likely say the same. Insurers see no reason voters think otherwise. And newspaper headlines do not lead with what is right, they  lead with what sells. Why else would a jury send a doctor to jail for 30 years for prescribing an opioid for pain – and call it murder. The first time in history. Murder charge for prescription opioid. 

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I have posted addiction tools to help doctors recognize addiction in their patients. Anyone could be an addict. Addicts can be very good actors. Pathological liars. Your cancer doctor will suspect everyone. That surely explains why my colleague took her grandmother to the oncologist at Cedars Sinai and heard the oncologist threaten her grandmother: “If you want pain medicine for your cancer, you’d better go somewhere else or I won’t treat you.” Don’t think this will not happen to you.

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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If any questions, please schedule an appointment with my office.

This site is not for email.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free educational website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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I realized

 

 

Pain is Worse Than Dying – Insurer Sues to Recover Payment for Opioids


 

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Pain Is Worse Than Dying

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Humana Is Obscene

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Humana Seeks

Repayment of Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

 From Pharmacy

For Pain Medication of Years Ago.

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Reversal and Recovery

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In 2013, I was privileged to meet an angel, a wonderful soul, a 28 year old woman who was furious that she had permitted her doctor to replace a catheter in the vein (PICC line) that kept her alive for six years with feedings. She was frail, skeletal, vomiting frequently, starving, with no body fat, and had to carry a vomit bag because of involuntary vomiting day and night. She had a mitochondrial disorder that caused many abnormalities and many kinds of pain – acute pancreatitis, Guillain Barre-like nerve pain, hepatic pain, enlarged cervical and lumbar nerve roots, demyelinating polyneuropathy, ICU stays for episodic sepsis. Her stomach was elongated, reaching deep down into the lower abdomen and pelvis. She had extreme pain, was suicidal, deeply spiritual and would never take her own life, but she knew if the catheter had to be removed, she would never give permission for it to be replaced and she would soon die without fluids. 

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“I just want to die. I’m done trying to get well. I did that for 10 years”

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Her entire digestive system was not working.

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She had been hospitalized months at a time, at many hospitals in the country in search of a diagnosis that was finally made by the foremost specialist in mitochondrial disorders. She had been part of an NIH study in Texas for two years, was hospitalized for months at Mayo Clinic, at Columbia University, and wanted to be on hospice the year before she saw me.

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All night long, she would make the most beautiful hand crafted cards— pain and vomiting made it impossible to sleep. I prescribed Subsys, a rapid onset fentanyl to spray under tongue with onset in 10 minutes. The only opioid suited for her pain. She could not take medicine by mouth and had no body fat needed for pain patches.

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Subsys was never enough. She required IV opioids for intractable pain, soon transferred to hospice, refused replacement of the feeding IV PICC line and died surrounded by her loving family.

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Thank goodness mom is an RN, she was able to be at home all those years. Humana saved years of hospital care, saved for a few months with Subsys.

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Humana now wants to recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments to the pharmacy for medications for her and others.

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A few years before mom and patient met me, Humana cut her off from her pain meds – cold turkey, forcing mom to take her to the ER. She ended up in the acute care hospital for 6 MONTHS while mom fought with Humana.

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Each time she got turned down, mom appealed.  The case made its way to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals after three levels of appeals and a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. 

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[The case did not reach the Supreme Court as I originally posted – see corrections below photo.]

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Mom won – by herself – no attorney – just organized with good documentation. Mom did have the director of pain management pharmacy from a local hospital on her side as a witness, though. Mom is an RN “Erin Brockovich” and will do whatever she can to fight this egregious action by Humana, the suicidal curse of pain, and all the patients who legitimately suffer with pain.

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Subsys is unique. There is no comparison. Among all the rapid onset fentanyl pain relievers, it is the fastest, with good levels in 10 minutes. When pain spikes rapidly, from low to severe in minutes, it is ideal to use a rapid onset opioid that may begin in 10 minutes rather than a pill that takes 1 or 2 hours to peak effect. Like many rapid onset fentanyl products, Subsys costs perhaps $100 each depending on dosage or $3,000 for 30. If you need 6 per day, that may be $18,000 per month. The raw powder costs pennies. The delivery device is a small spray of 0.1 mL (2 tiny drops) in a fine mist.

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Not all patients are able to use all forms of opioids for pain, yet the FDA approval for rapid onset fentanyl that excluded her. It is approved only for cancer pain – now CDC wishes to allow rapid fentanyl only for actively treated cancer. Your pain does not matter.

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There is no such thing as cancer pain.

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All people including cancer patients may have pain of nerves (neuropathic), organs (visceral) or other tissues (nociceptive). There is no such thing as cancer pain.

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The agony a physician feels when faced with a patient who is suicidal from severe pain and insurers that refuse to pay for needed medication is beyond words. Refusals like this have been happening for years, now far more often with egregious denials and futile “prior authorizations” – just yesterday refusing 20 mg morphine in a patient with many forms of severe pain. Medical ethics is not a business model. Insurers answer to stock holders, not those who buy their policy.

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Americans do not view pain as worthy of attention. Billions of dollars more for cancer. Almost nothing for pain research.

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Unlike most pain specialists, I have spent the last 15 years on alternatives for severe intractable pain, better than opioids, documented on these pages. I am the least opioid apologist, but I do prescribe opioids and taught cancer pain at one of the finest cancer hospitals in the world making me more “fluent” with opioids than most anesthesiologists who, after all, do mostly procedures. I could study for a year or two to take a special test, to be “certified” as a pain specialist – studying things I will never use in my practice, instead I refer to proceduralists when indicated.

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Oral analgesics are more cost effective and usually better than short lasting expensive procedures for chronic pain. Don’t get me started on the lack of research for spinal cord stimulators – use the tiny search box top left above my photo. Their $100,000 cost was effectively lobbied to insurers. Is it effective for more than two years? And the harms?

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Most people with chronic pain have no access to anything as effective as opioid medication. Well, that will be gone soon. You too will someday need help.

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Today FDA announces a sweeping review of agency opioid policy

to CUT access.

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Prepare for an avalanche of denials for your pain medicine. There’s been a storm of denials for years, denials for nonopioid treatment of pain, even more denials in the last few weeks since CDC’s offensive experiment I posted 11 times since late October. The avalanche is coming to bury us.

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It’s really a thankless job treating pain. Pain is devalued by Americans. Patients seem to accuse me of not doing my job when their medication is denied. They are treated like addicts. Doctors, families and pharmacists are suspicious of patients and of us.

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But this is happening for all medications, not just for pain, even generic asthma medicine, low dose estrogen that costs $12. Insurers know congress doesn’t care. Pharma knows congress doesn’t care. It’s a war on patients who are caught in the middle.

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CDC and FDA now want to take opioids away,

before we have an effective alternative.

Anti-opioidists have no science to back their stand.

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There is absolutely no reason any analgesic

should be limited to people with “actively treated” cancer –

CDC only allowed for that one partial change among a long list of changes sought by the American Pain Society.

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Politics has no place in the treatment of pain.

Pain policy in this country is sickening those with chronic pain.

Catering to the deaths of addicts –

politically expedient to deny you pain relief.

Treatment of pain doesn’t fit the American paradigm –  too weak.

War on drugs and addiction is more macho.

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Give us a better alternative.

Better for pain relief.

Better for addiction treatment.

For Pete’s sake look at addiction treatment

in countries who proved prohibition fails to work.

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Better treatment for addiction is not cured by denying pain relief to

116 million Americans with severe chronic pain.

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Or else start studying suicide in pain patients, not addicts.

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War on drugs is war on people with pain.

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My dearest friend who started home hospice in America

changed federal policy and the paradigm to treat cancer pain.

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Doctors threw food at him when he

spoke about treating pain in dying people.

Senior professors, the experts, rushed onstage, frantically

waving their arms in front of him saying:

“Don’t listen to this man, he’s crazy.”

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How much has changed?

Do the ghouls take your medication away?

Do insurance profits own government policy?

Do they destroy neighborhood pharmacies by

retracting hundreds of thousands of dollars years later?

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Bill

William M. Lamers, Jr., MD

December 24, 1931 – February 2, 2012

They are still inadequately treating cancer pain.

We miss you Bill

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Correction February 5, 2016:

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Mom writes to advise the case did not reach the Supreme Court. It went all the way up to the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals after three levels of appeals and a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. After 9 months of this process, the judge ruled in favor of having Humana cover Fentora buccal tablets for M – even though she didn’t have cancer. Fentora is another rapid acting fentanyl but not as fast as Subsys that was not yet on market in 2011. Humana APPROVED Fentora on 1/6/11 and then Humana DENIED it on 8/24/11, causing the patient to be hospitalized for several months.

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Hospitalized for months vs use of fentanyl at home for years.

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She had a very rare disease. These are the numbers from 2012.  They may be higher by now (or lower with deaths): It is estimated that 2,500 people throughout the world have Mito.  MNGIE is a rare form of Mito. There are only 70 people in the world known to be diagnosed with it. Twelve of them are in the U.S.  She was one of them.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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If any questions, please schedule an appointment with my office.

This site is not for email.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free educational website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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War On Opioids Is War On Patients With Pain: Obama Seeks $1.1 Billion to Fight Opioid Abuse


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A “war” on opioids is a war on patients with pain. The CDC just radically, across the board, cut access to opioid doses.

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Obama seeks to fight opioid abuse by arbitrarily limiting access to medication for 100 million patients with chronic pain. This does nothing to help the appalling lack of funding for research on chronic pain.

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Today, the New York Times announces President Obama is seeking $1.1 billion to fight the opioid epidemic.

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Obama had already signed a budget agreement in December for $400 million for the same.

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Imagine war on pain instead of war on addiction, war on drugs. If $1.1 billion were instead spent on finding better pain treatment— would addiction to opioids occur less often? Almost nothing is spent on pain research. Less than half of one per cent of NIH budget in 2008. There are over 20 different splice variants in the mu opioid receptor, some of which are not addicting – research from Gavril Pasternak at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Money for research is urgent.

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Federal agencies have heard about deaths of addicts, deaths of people with pain (addicts?) who overdosed on opioids, heard from families, from police officers but not from people with chronic pain who have no voice. There is no “BALANCE,” no conversation. Only after the American Pain Society appealed CDC’s radical plans, that CDC allowed one partial exclusion in dosage cuts: to allow opioid for cancer patients, but only if undergoing active cancer treatment. However, not for those cancer patients who are not in active cancer treatment, who have severe chronic pain resulting from the cancer itself that destroyed nerves or bone or spinal cord or brain, not for pain from cancer chemotherapy or radiation: you will suffer the same severe sharp drop in opioid allowed for treatment of your chronic pain.

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Time magazine in 2011 reported: “Serious, chronic pain affects at least 116 million Americans each year, many of whom are inadequately treated by the health-care system, according to a new report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). The report offers a blueprint for addressing what it calls a “public health crisis” of pain.”

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“…and the chronic suffering costs the country $560 to $635 billion each year in medical bills, lost productivity and missed work.”

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“Yet the reports’ authors said they believed that they had actually underestimated the incidence of chronic pain — that which lasts 30 to 60 days or more and takes a toll on personal and professional life — because their data didn’t include people living in settings like nursing homes. Further, as baby boomers age, the rate of chronic pain increases daily.”

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Unless you have experienced pain yourself, it is very hard to understand pain in others and to accept the fact that disabling severe pain can exist without obvious signs of fracture or other obvious causes. And if you are among the tens of millions who cannot afford the $10,000 or $5,000 deductible for medicine and doctor visits, heroin is cheap and can be found everywhere – death is the risk thanks to the American healthcare system that will not cover cost of your needs.

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Before we have an effective alternative,

CDC wants to take opioids away.

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Yes, side effects are a huge problem, but thanks to some relief from opioids, people are working or able to function. Since the sudden DEA conference late October 2015 announcing limits, I have been deeply concerned about the direction the American government is taking to deny medication for people with chronic pain. I have posted ten times on this radical nationwide experiment since October! – see many articles at top left below my photo. The CDC suddenly imposed limits on opioid medication for treatment of chronic pain, setting the daily opioid dose to be 100 mg morphine or its equivalent. Yet for years healthcare insurers have refused almost all forms of treatment with the exception of opioids, see the detailed list of FACTS at that link. Now the opioids are the last frontier, the final culprit. And then what? . . . nothing?

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There is no data to support this radical nationwide experiment. Many concerns of the American Pain Society were completely ignored. The anti-opioidists have won.

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People with chronic pain seem to be content to lose or to think that a few pain specialists can win their denials for drug coverage, while healthcare insurers’ profits go up by refusing to pay, by demanding “prior authorizations” that require doctors to jump one hurdle of forms after another, until finally, always: DENIED. This has gone on for years, vast, time consuming denials rather than practice of medicine. The more expensive the drug, the quicker and more comprehensive are the denials.

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Bottom line, insurers profit. CDC is interested in deaths from opioids, and they think training doctors in opioids is the same as training in pain management. I have made more than enough arguments on this site for years, and spent more than 15 years in better ways to treat pain.

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Just this moment, three letters of denial from insurance for 20 mg morphine, not 100 mg, no, they are denying a mere 20 mg, for severe pain, multiple diagnoses causing pain, “in accordance with CMS (Centers for Medicare …) guidelines.” That is the “training” in opioids. Why waste our time giving MD’s credit for 4 or 5 hours of training, and obtaining millions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies who make opioids for this “training,” in order for the DEA to go around the country “training” us, when opioids are being denied anyway? Denials for 20 mg morphine is not training. 

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Americans need to take action through the American Pain Society.

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I have written recently about the radical CDC opioid guidelines:

 

Tapering patients without sound and attainable alternatives

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Tampering with patient autonomy

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Failure to provide informed consent

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Avoidance of coercion

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Nonmeleficence – Do No Harm – Primum non nocere

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Treating patients like numbers not individualized

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Intellectual and academic dishonesty

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Anti-opioid zealots supported by zealous insurers? 

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Containment of drug costs, not pain

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Failure to assess risk vs benefit

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etc, etc – refer to prior posts

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These arbitrary actions are mind numbing and hopeless until voices of millions become united. Elected officials cannot afford to ignore the mounting deaths from prescription opioids that are killing white people. Clearly they can afford to ignore 116 million Americans with serious chronic pain.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please schedule an appointment with my office.

This site is not for email.

~~~~~

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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Opioids Kill White Americans – Is it opioids or suicide or addiction or untreated pain?


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Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in

Mortality Rates of Young Whites

New York Times

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Yes, white Americans, headlined yesterday by Gina Kolata and Sarah Cohen, New York Times science writers.  This article points to the highest mortality in young whites. See post early November on the Princeton researchers who reported deaths in white Americans. True, infants and children have severe pain, but this new article is on young white adults.


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Those who are anti-opioid and those who lost a loved one from opioids and heroin (an opioid that helps pain), will send in comments to the paper so that everyone can see how bad opioids are. Most patients who take opioids are too disabled from pain to write.

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Pain is stigmatized, opioids stigmatized, people in pain are stigmatized, doctors who treat pain are stigmatized. Any wonder 97% of medical schools do not teach pain management?

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Is it opioids or suicide or addiction or untreated pain that is killing our youth?

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How many suicides have opioids prevented? Americans make up less than 5% of the global population but consume 80% of the world’s supply of opioid prescription pills. What if your cancer pain now becomes severe intractable chronic pain? Cancer has been changing. The survival rate has increased, and many of these cancer patients treated with opioid therapy, survived the cancer but have residual chronic pain from cancer or its treatment. Surely they are among the 18,000 white people who died.

 

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Please read the earlier post this week on the ethics of opioid treatment, on

CDC’s imminent radical cut in opioid doses for 100 million patients nationwide.

Use search function above photo – type in CDC or DEA.

Your pain. Your lives. Their profit.

A thorny problem.

Tell us what happened to you. Doctors, tell us what you are seeing.

Have you been denied disability due to pain? Denied non-opioid treatment?

Chronic severe pain affects forty million Americans.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Some insurers have denied or limited non-opioid treatments yet continued expensive opioids for decades. Has your insurance refused your treatment? Pain specialists have been barraged by denials for years.  Please comment below.

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As noted last week, I have spent 15 years developing alternatives to failed opioid treatment for chronic intractable pain and writing about that on these pages since April 2009. But opioids must be available as last resort.

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FACT:

  • Opioids killed almost 18,000 Americans in 2014 – prescription opioids, not street drugs.

  • 40 million American millions with severe pain, millions not thousands

  • 100 million with chronic pain.

  • CDC will imminently, radically cut everyone’s opioid dose

  • Health insurers will oblige, and incidentally show increased profit to shareholders

  • Suicide increases with untreated pain

  • Death rates for “whites ages 25 to 34 was five times its level in 1999”

  • This age group has more injuries from work and play that can lead to disability, job loss

  • Insurance is unaffordable or not purchased by many young adults

  • My own colleagues cannot afford high deductibles – prescriptions are now counted in deductibles, now unaffordable

  • Can you afford $20,000 per month for your opioid or is cheap heroin more affordable? Can you afford your usual drugs on Medicare once you are in the “donut hole.” Can you afford $28 per day, $840 per month for gout, when colchicine was 12 cents a day a couple years ago?

    • Do insurance denials increase liklihood of cheaper alternatives such as heroin or illegal marijuana resulting in death by drug dealer?

    • Do exhorbitant costs of opioids lead insurers to deny your medication?

  • Insurers have refused to pay for abuse-deterrent and tamper-resistant formulations of opioids

  •  Insurers have refused to pay for proven, widely accepted, nonopioid analgesics:

    • Lyrica

    • Horizant

    • Gralise

    • Cymbalta

    • Does it help the DEA and NIH and universities to teach those as nonopioid alternatives when they are not covered and not affordable the rest of your life?

    • Insurers deny every known compounded analgesic though low cost and effective, even for Tricare’s disabled veterans, even 5% lidocaine ointment for nerve pain, dextromethorphan, oxytocin, low dose naltrexone – Stanford published research on naltrexone years ago and now doing research on it again for CRPS, many many others

    • Insurers deny proven analgesics that are used by armed forces, university hospitals, select doctors, for life threatening pain: ketamine

    • Insurers deny off-label analgesics that may work better than opioids, e.g. memantine, an Alzheimers drug – can relieve intractable nerve pain (French publication on CRPS/RSD pain)

    • Insurers deny medications that reduce side effects of opioids, e.g. nonaddicting modafinil popular with students, to increase alertness when opioids cause drowsiness that may cause injury, death – gosh 10 years ago!

    • Is drowsiness the cause of some of those 18,000 opioid deaths?

  • Health insurers have refused coverage for treatments such as P.T., psychotherapy for coping skills, blocks.

  • Insurers deny medications that relieve the withering side effects of opioid withdrawal, making it impossible for many to taper off, e.g. Adderall, Wellbutrin (dopamine)

  • Cannabis, a nonopioid, classified by US Congress as Schedule I, illegal federally for human use, illegal to take on a plane or cross state/national borders, found on meteorites, made by sponges and some of the earliest living species on the planet, used for thousands of years for pain, while cocaine and methamphetamine are classified as Schedule II for prescription purposes.

  • Opioids, even vicodin, require monthly doctor visits, costs, monthly for sixty years

  • Why whites dying of opioids? People of color are denied prescription opioids. Stark data published for decades.

  • Heroin is an opioid, cheap and available; its “unAmerican” – used in England for pain, used thousands of years for pain

  • Untreated pain is one reason people turn to heroin, affordable is another

  • Violence and drinking and taking drugs can begin with chronic pain and job loss, not always the other way around, chicken egg

  • Opioids cost pennies to make, patient’s cost is $20,000 per month for Rx. Insurers paid what the market would bear… in the old days. Who is trapped in the middle of this fight for shareholder profit?

    • How many of us would take 2 or 4 extra pain pills when pain spikes to extreme for days?

    • If you are disabled, can you afford insurance or expensive prescription drugs?

  • “Poverty and stress, for example, are risk factors for misuse of prescription narcotics,” Dr. Hayward said.

  • When you are not getting enough sleep and rest, working too many hours overtime or 3 jobs, inflammation and pain spikes

  • Misuse of opioids in > 33% (perhaps 48%?) of cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in high resource settings when insurance was better, published 1990’s.

  • Cancer pain – usually time limited. Intractable chronic pain – forever.
    .How many jobs will be lost and how many suicides when CDC imminently imposes strict cuts in opioids?

  •  DEA recently requires every pain patient taking opioids, including those with cancer, to be diagnosed “Opioid Dependent” — not only addicts – the same diagnosis for pain patients includes addicts. The term “addiction” has been equated to dependence by most psychiatrist over the past 30 years. It may be interesting to see what criteria are used to define “addiction” if any, in DSM V. Some important members acknowledge that the addition of dependence into addiction in DSM-III was a mistake….the DSM-V criteria will get rid of “abuse”, and will include craving. it will also apparently eliminate the legal/criminal criteria. DSM comments are extracted from here, with many good arguments on this epidemic, such as: “The US is leading the way in eradicating pain, but in doing so has created an unwanted byproduct: painkiller addiction.”
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    What would you want if you had intense chronic pain?

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    “For too many, and especially for too many women,” she said, “they are not in stable relationships, they don’t have jobs, they have children they can’t feed and clothe, and they have no support network.”

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    “It’s not medical care, it’s life,” she said. “There are people whose lives are so hard they break.”

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Opioids kill – or is it untreated pain?

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Pain kills, a maleficent force.

No one can help you. Only you have the tools to do it

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Alarms went off for me on radical opioid cuts in October and I posted when

DEA suddenly held conferences across the nation on sharply cutting opioid doses.

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How many of us especially seniors and male persons refuse to learn or use coping skills that

reduce pain without medication?

How many of us refuse to diet and lose weight to reduce pain and/or disability?

Politicians are sued if they tax sales of sugar loaded soft drinks.

One single can of soda per day exceeds acceptable sugar limits for entire day.

Snacks need to say much much time it takes to burn off fat –

quarter of large pizza 449 calories, walk off 1 hr 23 min;

large coke 140 calories, walk off 30 minutes.

Foods can be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.

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Obesity is pro-inflammatory.

So is lack of sleep.

People who sleep with animals in their bed and their bedroom, I’m talking to you.

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Yes, pain is in your mind.

Chronic back pain is no longer in the back, it’s in the brain, the pain matrix.

It’s behavior, not just pills. Pain is an emotional and psychosocial  and spiritual experience.

Work on it! Constantly.

Lord forbid we should teach stress reduction and meditation in grade school

and improve school lunches before kids start looking for heroin for pain.

Yes, kids have chronic pain, are sleep deprived, often obese.

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Isn’t this all un-American?

Injuries, pain, habits, pace activities, learn to avoid and treat pain – start young.

Taxpayers end up paying for ignorance and disability.

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I will soon be posting published research that documents health insurers have refused to pay for nonopioid treatment and how health care policy aimed at all people with chronic pain leads to suicide when drastic cuts are made to opioid doses – Washington State we are looking at you. Florida you’ve made headlines and 60 Minutes TV specials years ago.

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Do please comment below if your health insurer has refused medication, physical therapy, psycho-therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, stress reduction, for chronic pain.

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How many of you have been denied social security disability by doctors who don’t know how to diagnose RSD, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome? Let me know. I will pass on that data to researchers collecting information on untreated pain.

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I have written many times on these pages, and more often than ever these past years as insurers cut back more and more. This will rapidly get worse. We need your data.

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Please send in your stories. You are not alone.

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So many issues. Steven Passik, PhD, was interview by Lynn Webster, MD – emphasis in bold is mine. Dr. Passik pioneered in management of chronic pain and pain in addicts. He has read some of Dr. Webster’s book. “You’re calling, the need for love and connection and all those things in the book, I’ve been – what’s largely lacking is outright, at times animosity towards people with pain and I think there’s a lot of projections sometimes because the therapy – the stigmatized disease – treated in stigmatized people with stigmatized drugs and interventions and so, it’s like a hat trick of stigma.  I’ve been to my share of pain conferences lately that people are really talking about, “Okay, well there’s come a realization that opioid-only, drug-only therapy, is really not going to work to the best majority of this population.  It doesn’t [mean] that opioids should be ignored and we’ll get into that later, but that they’re going to work in isolation and should never been expected to.  And then they start advocating things that are a lot like supportive and cognitive behavioral therapy and to be practiced basically by the primary care physician or the pain doctor.  And the idea that, to me that’s in a way comical because as a psychologist myself, we’re dealing with the system wherein cognitive behavioral therapists can’t even get paid to do cognitive behavioral therapy.  And so, I think something’s got to give, and I think one of the main obstacle is that – and this really gets into the next question as well but I’ll come back to that more specifically – but when people have a set of whatever chronic condition that involves psychiatric motivational, lifestyle, spiritual as well as nociceptive elements, and we put a premium only on what you do to people, prescribed to people, put in people, take out of people, and then that’s only going to relegate the other kinds of treatment or the other kinds of ways in which a caring physician and treatment team would spend time with the patient to the very poorly reimbursed category.  You’ll always going to have a problem with people being treated with the kind of respect that should go along with treating that kind of an illness and it’s not unique even to chronic pain.  I’ve seen treatment scenarios with people who are taking care of people with pancreatic cancer, have an afternoon clinic that has 45 people in it.  I mean how you – something’s got to give in our healthcare systems and I do think that patients are going to have to stand up and say, “I don’t want to be on a conveyor belt.  I want to spend some time and make a connection with the people that are taking care of me and it’s not just about the piece paper in my hands, for a prescription or that I walk out the door with.”

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Clematis Blue.

 The New York Times article further says:

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…This is the smallest proportional and absolute gap in mortality between blacks and whites at these ages for more than a century,” Dr. Skinner said. If the past decade’s trends continue, even without any further progress in AIDS mortality, rates for blacks and whites will be equal in nine years, he said….

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…Not many young people die of any cause. In 2014, there were about 29,000 deaths out of a population of about 25 million whites in the 25-to-34 age group. That number had steadily increased since 2004, rising by about 5,500 — about 24 percent — while the population of the group as a whole rose only 5 percent. In 2004, there were 2,888 deaths from overdoses in that group; in 2014, the number totaled 7,558….

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…For young non-Hispanic whites, the death rate from accidental poisoning — which is mostly drug overdoses — rose to 30 per 100,000 from six over the years 1999 to 2014, and the suicide rate rose to 19.5 per 100,000 from 15, the Times analysis found….

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…For non-Hispanic whites ages 35 to 44, the accidental poisoning rate rose to 29.9 from 9.6 in that period. And for non-Hispanic whites ages 45 to 54 — the group studied by Dr. Case and Dr. Deaton — the poisoning rate rose to 29.9 per 100,000 from 6.7 and the suicide rate rose to 26 per 100,000 from 16, the Times analysis found….

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…Eileen Crimmins, a professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, said the causes of death in these younger people were largely social — “violence and drinking and taking drugs.” Her research shows that social problems are concentrated in the lower education group.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice,

diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please call the office to schedule an appointment.

This site is not email for personal questions.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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Opioid Restrictions for Safe Prescribing – CDC Solicits Comments on Guidelines


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The CDC has issued a draft of guidelines for safe opioid prescribing that will soon go into effect for chronic noncancer pain.

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The CDC is soliciting your comments before January 13 – only a few more days to send in your comments to the CDC before the guidelines become the new standard without regard to need.

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I posted on the coming opioid restrictions for chronic noncancer pain after a DEA conference a few weeks ago with content that was mandated by the FDA. The focus is on the epidemic of deaths from prescription opioids and limiting the daily dose to the equivalent of 100 mg per day morphine, maximum.

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Prescription opioids killed almost 18,000 patients in 2014 — NOT street drugs, NOT heroin, but ***prescription***opioids.

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See several posts since then. Pain a malefic force. Pain kills. Insurers refuse to cover more than this arbitrary dose limit that may be safe but may not be an adequate dose.

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To my knowledge, there is no research justifying a rationale for the CDC dose limit, what seems an arbitrary dose limit for treatment of severe pain. Rather, the  emphasis is on addiction and reducing the epidemic of deaths from prescription opioids.

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Since opioid induced hyperalgesia is a concern, where is the research showing what exactly is the opioid dose that causes hyperalgesia in humans?

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Medicine is now practiced by one-size-fits-all guidelines/spreadsheets, not by physicians, not by specialists, and not individualized care.

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Pain management is not just opioid management.

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There is no emphasis on teaching pain management in more than 3% of American medical schools.

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What about the devastating and completely inadequate lack of research funding for nonopioid treatment of chronic noncancer pain?

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Severe chronic pain in 17.6% of the US population – 40 million adults. Data ignores children disabled with pain for years.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please schedule an appointment with my office.

This site is not for email.

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

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Be the change you wish to see – or walk away. Money at NIH


 

 

A Turning Point

 

$$$$$ MONEY $$$$$

 

at NIH

 

May not come this way again

 

NIH developing

5-year NIH-wide Strategic Plan

 

 

 

Donate to organizations, below

They can provide feedback to NIH via the

RFI Submission site


 

 

 

John C. Liebeskind, 1935 – 1997, distinguished scholar and researcher, past president of the American Pain Society, had the radical idea that pain can affect your health.

 

Research decades ago by an Israeli team at UCLA and others had shown “that pain can accelerate the growth of tumors and increase mortality after tumor challenge.” Decades ago Professor Liebeskind lectured all over the country: Pain kills.

 

He wrote an editorial in 1991, summarizing a life’s work:

 

“Pain and stress can inhibit immune function.”

 

 

Quoting John Bonica, the father of modern pain management, he wrote:

 

“Bonica has long argued that the term ‘chronic benign pain’ (used in distinction to pain associated with cancer) is seriously misleading.  Chronic pain is never benign, he contends; “it is a ‘malefic force’ that can devastate its victims’ lives and even lead to suicide.”

 

 

Liebeskind continues, “It appears that the dictum ‘pain does not kill,’ sometimes invoked to justify ignoring pain complaints, may be dangerously wrong.”

 

Pain mediates immune function

 

Importantly

 

  Opioids mediate the suppressive effect of stress on natural killer cells,

 

 published in 1984, immune system.

 

Alcohol increases tumor progression, 1992, immune system.

 

It used to be news.

He did not live to see change.

 

People just want to go on doing what they’re doing.

They want business as usual.

 

 

After 1991, we saw the great discoveries of neuroinflammation, pioneered by Linda Watkins, PhD, the early understanding of the innate immune system, its involvement in chronic pain and depression, and a few weeks ago, a British team showed neuroinflammation in teens with early signs of schizophrenia and DNA markers.

 

 

Major Depression has the same neuro-inflammation found in chronic pain, often responding to same medications, in particular glial modulators – immune modulators. Now, perhaps early schizophrenia will respond to glial modulators, reducing inflammation seen on scan in teens, before they become homeless and burned out by antipsychotic drugs

 

Inflammation out of control destroys neurons

 

Fire on the brain

 

 

We must be the change we wish to see

 

It’s not just the Bern. It’s been starting. Forces are finally coming together. We want change. It’s been too much. Too long.

 

We won’t take it anymore.

 

I figure if I tell you about it, you might just mention it to someone to pass it on. That is all. One small action may lead to change. Activate inputs to the NIH strategic plan.

 

 

~ Action needed ~

 

Prices of drugs becoming unaffordable

No new drugs for pain or major depression

Research to repurpose existing drugs

Expose the politics destroying our compounding pharmacies

 

Above all

The #1

Major Priority:

Request NIH to solicit priority call for research on

Glial modulators of the

Innate immune system

 

 

Why?

 

Glia modulate

chronic pain, major depression

and almost every known disease

 

Glia are your innate immune system

 

Inflammation kills

 

 

 

 Stress kills. Inflammation kills.

 

 

Pain kills

 

In the 1970’s, Professor Liebeskind and an Israeli team at UCLA injected cancer cells to two groups of rats that had sham surgery. Cancer spread much faster and killed far sooner in the group with poor treatment of surgical pain.

 

 

~ Pain kills ~

 

He lectured all over the country

 

Forty five years ago

 

 

I’m gonna be dead before I see this country do anything but unaffordable opioids and the magical ineffective trio of gabapentin, Lyrica, Cymbalta to treat chronic pain. The devastating, blind, nationwide emphasis does nothing to address the cause: inflammation, the innate immune system gone wild.


 

 

Innate immune system in action

 

Untreated pain suppresses the hormone systems too.

 

Untreated depression – same inflammation kills lives.

 

Where’s the money?

 

We are the change we wish to see. It’s pitiful I am so lazy. Suddenly, too late, we may need something, but, aha, no new drugs in the pipeline.

 

 

 

~ Make a joyful cry to NIH ~

 

They are soliciting input from professional societies

 

If your condition has failed all known drugs for pain or major depression, then make a joyful cry to NIH, now, before they give away all that nice new $$$$$money$$$$$.

 

 

Follow and join

 

American Pain Society

 

 

International Association for Pain

celebrating 40 years of pain research

 

 

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association

help for CRPS/RSD  

 

 

 

The key to CRPS/RSD pain will apply to all forms of chronic pain, in particular the most difficult form, neuropathic pain. RSDSA funds research into all forms of chronic pain, not only Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS/RSD). Their scientific board members are not funded by opioid money.

 

 

 

Exactly

what is the annual cost of care

as fraction of GDP

for the growing population of Americans on opioids

for one year, for lifetime?

 

 

People are dying from prescription opioids and those who need them find they don’t work well enough. Prescriptions opioid costs must be a huge fraction of the medical costs in the United States GDP. You are required  to see a doctor every single month each year, often lifelong, just for one opioid, 12 months a year x 30 years x tens of millions of people and increasing – a growth industry. Not even counting $600 a day for the opioid, what the cost of monthly visits for 30 years? Not counting the army of DEA, FDA, CDC agents watching the opioids like a hawk. We all have to be sharp, addiction is growing. Addiction aside, deaths from prescription opioids are shaking up the CDC forcing urgent change this coming month.

 

 

 

Opioids do not work well for chronic pain

We need better

It’s not just the $600/day price

They just don’t work

 

 

donate

 

 

Raise a joyful noise at NIH now or write back at us readers with comments and better suggestions. Tell others what you’d like to see. Which politicians do you know would be most interested in this at national levels and organizations?

 

You may never see this change unless you do it now. Other forces will get this new money.

 

 

Turning point now

May not return

 

 

We are at a turning point and we will fail to catch the sail that’s coming fast to carry all research money in their shiny big stem cell direction. They never look back.

 

 

There is so many medications we can use today, FDA approved drugs that can be re-purposed and applied to recent cutting edge science. Someone must pay to do the work to study this.

 

 

Re-purpose old drugs

 

 

Stanford just showed a popular generic drug improved recovery of stroke paralysis in mice to begin at 3 days rather than 30. Old drug, new purpose, of course more years of testing to confirm in humans. Brilliant team applying new science.

 

 

Request
NIH to solicit a

Special Invitation

for 30 good protocols to

repurpose old drugs

 

 

Hundreds of old drugs, already approved, could be involved in mechanisms we have recently learned about. Speak up or money will go to shiny new stem cells. None for chronic pain or major depression. No company will find this profitable – it must be funded by NIH. A popular generic sleeping pill can bring astonishing return from stroke paralysis.

 

 

Congress has not opened this new money to NIH in many long years. How often will there be extra money?

 

 

donate

 

 

Lawrence A. Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D.
Principal Deputy Director, NIH, solicits you to

Review the NIH Strategic Initiative Plan and their

Request for Information (RFI) and the NIH website

and provide your feedback via the RFI Submission site

 

 

This is for “stakeholder organizations (e.g., patient advocacy groups, professional societies) to submit a single response reflective of the views of the organization/membership as a whole. We also will be hosting webinars to gather additional input. These webinars will be held in early to mid-August.

 

 

 

Be the change you wish to see

Donate to those organizations

to solicit the change you wish to be

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Rejoice!

There’s money at NIH

 

 

 

 

 

 

The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

Relevant comments are welcome.

If any questions, please schedule an appointment with my office.

This site is not for email.

~~~~~

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

 

 

 

 

Proposal: A 5-Year Study of Best Methods to Treat Intractable Pain


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PROPOSAL

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A controlled trial to improve care for chronic pain:

The study to understand prognoses and preferences for

outcomes and risks of treatments

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Model after Joanne Lynn’s 1995 SUPPORT Study

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A controlled trial to improve care for seriously ill hospitalized patients:

The study to understand prognoses and preferences for

outcomes and risks of treatments (SUPPORT)

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Proposal

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A controlled five-year trial to improve care for outpatients with chronic pain. The study will be designed to understand prognoses and preferences related to the outcomes and risks of various treatments.

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The focus:

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Intractable pain, those who have failed pain medications and procedures or those with moderate to severe pain who only partially respond.

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Study polypharmacy, compare medications that may show synergy or that additively improve relief.

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Study and search for glial modulators – medications that reduce proinflammatory cytokines.

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Problem

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Research is needed to give persons with intractable pain the data and the confidence that they can affordably use to choose the best treatment needed to get their lives back again. They have already spent tens of thousands. They may be unable to work. We all need these options.

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There are a few small islands in this country doing a radical experiment in managing pain without opioids [narcotics, the police term] as discussed in the New York Times in May 2014, and the 2008 Mayo Clinic study. Efforts such as these need to be supported with data as soon as possible in order to reduce the burden of disability and pain in our society, especially our youth, our children, our veterans, our aging seniors, well everyone. We can be productive and we want to be.

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I have seen remarkable outcomes, pain that failed to respond to all known pain medications, going into partial and even total remission, lives restored after weaning off opioids and appropriate treatment given.

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We cannot expect any medication to work every time. How often can we achieve better results after opioids are tapered off? Opioids may prolong pain in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome where remission seems possible only after they are stopped, yet opioids may be essential in many forms of chronic pain. We need data on the radical experiment to manage pain without opioids, and determine how best to manage chronic pain with them.

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Opioids have a long history of being the drug of choice to treat chronic intractable pain by doctors who lack information and training about other exciting options now coming to the fore. Compounding the problem is the fact that physicians do not know how to diagnose musculoskeletal pain and do not know how that good physical therapy is actually effective.

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Healthcare providers need data about all the options to begin to address the toll that chronic intractable pain exacts and government worldwide need to know what is cost effective and possible. Many countries cannot obtain opioids.

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We must not be insensitive to the financial burden that frustrates patients when they spend tens of thousands of dollars for drugs that provide little if any benefit.

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Investment in developing nonopioid treatments for pain does not even begin to compare to the investment in opioids for pain. The few medication choices we have are not enough. Often they fail to help. Expensive drugs are not the best choice if they are not affordable or they are limited to diabetic neuropathy when more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy have been identified, plus many more types of even more severe neuropathic pain not classified as neuropathy. Shall we continue to ignore all those because FDA has classed these few new drugs for diabetic neuropathy exclusively?

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Let me be clear, prescription of opioids is justified and they are valuable. Opioids are on the World Health Organization list of ten essential drugs. BUT there is little or no research on treatment of intractable pain without opioids.

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Neuropathic pain, nerve pain, is the most difficult to treat. Neuropathy, radiculopathy, transverse myelitis, adhesive arachnoiditis, central pain, RSD, Guillain-Barre, trigeminal neuralgia, Tic Douloureaux, post herpetic neuralgia, to name a few. It is not enough to limit research of neuropathic pain to diabetic neuropathy when it fails to address all other causes. When FDA approves a drug only for diabetic neuropathy, insurers deny the drug for the other 95% of you without diabetes. Insurers may choose to read guidelines as mandates, fiats,  marching orders.

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Neuropathic pain is not the only concern. Physicians do not know how to diagnose musculoskeletal pain. How can they if only 3% of medical schools teach pain management and when doctors do not know how to assess ineffective physical therapy when they have never seen better.

A patient dislocated her hip 7 times, manually repositioned each time in ER. The 6th surgeon impinged a wide band of muscle in the joint causing muscle all down the thigh to bulge 5 to 7 mm high, of rock hard spasm with intense relentless pain. The 7th surgeon had the gentle ability to restore position and release the entrapment. A light touch across the thigh even through clothing can detect the cause. Would a surgeon have discovered to release the entrapment unless she had dislocated a 7th time? Simple muscle strain, undiagnosed by a surgeon who deals with muscle all the time, was not even noticed and he ignored the acute pain it caused. She has now learned how to avoid dislocating that new hip. Had the muscle not been appropriately identified as cause, she would not be able to move by now. But the surgeon should have had the skills to notice instantly before those muscles became chronically strangled. She was referred for manual physical therapy and thankfully, before all else could occur, she dislocated and was repositioned by the 7th surgeon. A wonderful teaching case for a teaching hospital that should be every hospital. Grand Rounds for pain cases.

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MAJOR FUNDING DECLINE IN PAIN RESEARCH

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 BEFORE 2008

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 BEFORE CONGRESS CUT NIH BUDGET BY UNTHINKABLE 30% IN 2010

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Perhaps the biggest impediment to gathering data about pain management is the lack of government funding for pain research and lack of a Pain Institute at NIH. If not, funding will continue to be fragmented and split elsewhere, not to learn about one of the most costly problems in every society.

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In 2008, before the worldwide depression, pain research was in major decline. The AAAS, the American Association for Advancement of Science told us then:

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“Federal funding for pain research is declining sharply, more than 9 percent a year since 2003, according to a new study published in The Journal of Pain. Pain research, as a result, now accounts for only 0.6 percent of all grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), despite the high prevalence of chronic pain in the U.S.

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“This startling finding shows the government’s meager investment in pain research is seriously out of proportion with the widespread chronic pain incidence in our society, which is estimated at one in four Americans and accounts for more than 20 percent of all physician office visits,” said Charles E. Inturrisi, president of the American Pain Society and professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York. “And this disparity is not attributable to years of budget cuts at NIH because the Journal of Pain study clearly shows pain research has a higher percentage decline than the overall NIH budget. So the drop in agency funding has not affected all research areas equally.”

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[emphasis mine.]

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Research in pain was sharply declining prior to 2008. Then a 30% cut across the board in 2010. Thank the American Pain Society for those ancient 2008 figures. No one had ever asked – which is why we need a Pain Institute at NIH.

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Frustration is compounded the last few years by insurers no longer willing to authorize many opioids and non-opioid medications, even generics.

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As for the cost of opioids,  a single opioid for one patient may exceed $80,000 per month when the patient is required to use with another long acting opioid, and often several nonopioid adjuncts just to bring pain down from 9 on scale of 10, to a slightly more bearable 7 or 8 which is severe, relentless and prevents sleep and ability to concentrate. One drug that costs pennies to make, sells for $80,000 a month to allow 4 a day when at least 6 a day are needed and it is only one of many for pain every day.

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Prescription of opioids is justified and may be invaluable.

but there is little or no research on

 treatment of intractable pain without opioids.

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We need national consensus guidelines based on data

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We must do a better job treating intractable pain. We need guidelines that have more to offer than the few opioids and few adjuvants we now have, so few in number, so great the need. Can we know when is it true that opioids are indicated? Our use is many times more than all the other First World countries?

 

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Treatment must be individualized

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Data is needed to guide choice

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Compounded Medications are among the

most useful drugs we have for treatment of intractable pain

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Compounded medications may be the only ones that help, and can reduce pain to zero. We can re-purpose the delivery of any medication, as long as it has been FDA approved. But the last few years insurers have been discontinuing coverage for compounded medications and Medicare has never covered them.

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This must change. Who is funding that political blockade that denies coverage for compounded medicine? The cost may be $120 for one compounded medication vs $80,000 for one opioid. Either way, the person with intractable pain likely needs 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 medications, compounded or not. Who can afford $400 per month out of pocket for compounded medications that work, when insurance will not cover the affordable drugs. Who can afford that out-of-pocket expense if insurers cover nothing for your pain, neither the bright shiny opioid or the compounded sprays, capsules, suspensions, creams, troches, as well as the essential solutions instilled into the bladder for interstitial cystitis?

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This must change. Lawmakers must be called to account for allowing and perpetuating the inhumane taking advantage of those who suffer intractable pain.

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A first step in getting lawmakers to pay attention is to amass a body of compelling data.

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BALANCE IS NEEDED

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The United States as a society cannot afford for pain research to die and go bankrupt and leave only opioids as the standard treatment for hundreds of types of pain. Someone has to begin the needed studies. It does not just bankrupt the patient, it leaves us all bankrupt, the country most importantly. It ends marriages, tears apart families. To be struck down as a child with intractable nerve pain the rest of your life, or be struck in your prime, is devastating. And disability gets routinely denied for pain. Why? Perhaps because pain is taught in only 3% of university medical schools. How are doctors to imagine that pain can end lives when they have no experience seeing how disabling it can be?

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 If doctors cannot see the devastating toll that pain takes,

how can we expect accountants to see it?

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The Study We Need

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Solution

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 To gain a comprehensive and compelling picture of how pain impacts the population and how to effectively treat it we need a large-scale study:

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  • Five years in duration

  • 10,000 outpatients – statistically this must be adjusted to obtain multiple outcomes

  • At five major university teaching hospitals for regional differences

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 Outcomes

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The study will yield important information about the following:

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  • Efficacy

  • Pain Numeric Rating Scores, Percent Improvement

  • Functional Improvement, etc

  • Compounded medications

  • Racial and Gender Disparities

  • Addicts who have chronic pain

  • Top notch manual physical therapy* [see below], not for what passes in most places. This must change ASAP. United States is far behind other countries. Even if the condition is neuropathic, it often becomes musculoskeletal after splinting for months, years

  • Interventional procedures

  • Meditation

    How you brain can heal your body and your body heal your brain.

  • Pain changes DNA, neurotransmitters. Have we permanently changed them with opioids?

  • Polypharmacy. When employing one drug alone is unlikely to lead to a successful outcome.

  • Stem cells for joint pain – autologous lipid derived mesenchymal stem cells

  • rTMS, experimental after 20 years, is it still better for acute than for chronic pain?
    Who will benefit, for how long? How many weeks of relief for that $15,000 investment?

  • Glia, the Innate Immune System

Opioids create pro-inflammatory cytokines that create pain and opioid tolerance.

Restore cytokine balance, reduce inflammation and pain.

Which of our existing medications either trigger or reduce inflammatory cytokines in the CNS?

  • Pain in the person with Alzheimers dementia

  • Danger of combining opioids with benzodiazepines

  • Danger of long term use of opioids (regardless if short or long acting)

  • Appropriateness of using opioids as a first choice in acute pain (loss of a milk tooth, sore throat in a teenager, acute back pain, ankle strain, etc.)

  • Appropriateness of opioid holidays.

  • Post op pain can be avoided completely with combined use of oral low dose naltrexone and ketamine IV anesthesia. Patients discharged directly from recovery room with no need for pain medication for months or years

  • Cost Benefit Analysis

 

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Five Conditions Will Be Studied

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Strong emphasis must be placed on neuropathic pain that so often fails to respond to any intervention

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1. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The Netherlands invested €25 million over 5 years to study this one devastating pain condition, far out of proportion to the incidence in that small country. There are pain specialists who cannot recognize it and/or doctors who routinely deny disability for this devastating pain, like death in life.

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2. Low Back Pain

Define criteria for surgery.

If we wait too long before surgery is done, will we ever reverse the chronic pain that has set in?

Have we condemned that patient to monthly visits for opioid the remaining 50 years of their life?

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3. Other neuropathic pain conditions such as adhesive arachnoiditis, trigeminal neuralgia, transverse myelitis, Tic Douloureaux, Post Herpetic Neuralgia, Interstitial Cystitis, Vulvodynia, Proctalgia, Pudendal Neuropathy


4. Painful peripheral neuropathy nondiabetic and Painful Small Fiber Neuropathy  all forms of painful neuropathy

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5. You choose – central pain?

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What We Must Do Now

 

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  • Find a pain advocate like the cancer advocate of the 1950’s that changed attitudes for research

  • Fund the pain SUPPORT study

  • This will spin off enormous research ideas that we must begin separately to implement with research as each develops, the need is beyond urgent. How many more years can we make everyone wait?

  • Write letters, to congress, the White House. Real letters, not email, not signature lists. Congress will not hear us unless we speak in very, very large numbers.

  • Help the topic of intractable pain become a part of the 2016 presidential conversation.

  • Incentivize teaching hospitals to teach pain management and to develop options for nonopioid treatment of chronic intractable pain. Pain is a multidisciplinary field, not limited to Anesthesiology procedures.

  • Create an Institute for Pain Management in addition to the 28 institutes at NIH, three of which are for addiction, none for pain. Pain is the number one reason people seek medical help.

  • Require that pain specialists sit on the FDA advisory committees for pain medication – none recently.

  • Require insurance coverage for compounded medications.

  • Prevent FDA from limiting medication to cancer pain.
    Cancer pain does not exist.

    There are basic types of pain that occur in persons who have cancer, neuropathic pain being worse than other forms of “cancer pain.” It has the same medication response or failure to respond as persons whose pain is not due to cancer.

  • How do we restrict the use of opioids to severe pain when there is nothing else to offer and after everyone is started on opioids by their family doctor years before they see a pain specialist?

  • Novel and ancient methods for treatment of pain should be explored including cannabis and possibly hallucinogens

  • Isolation of pharmacologically important medicine from rainforest and deep seas must be done before they disappear.

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Physical Therapy is the #1 Key to Chronic Pain

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Manual Physical Therapy was introduced to the United States in the late 1970’s but is rarely practiced or not done well. It does not mean “hands on.” It derives from techniques brought to us by British Commonwealth and Scandinavian countries. Our healthcare providers do not know how to differentiate between good and useless practices. Fortunes and lives are wasted hinging on that distinction. Pills never can undo the harm brought about by common musculoskeletal issues – and our providers have no training in recognizing simple muscle trigger points, let alone intractable connective tissue contractures. My patients have been misdiagnosed as histrionic, drug seeking, personality disorders, and worse. It boils down to ignorance and lack of basic training, let alone believing what the patient says and not having the tools to help.

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The trend is for year long residency programs following the 3 year Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT).  The year long residency program is a very positive step.  The limitations are that it is a year with a clinical staff that may have a specific perspective.  The push towards evidence based practice is a reasonable step but should not exclude considerations of outside the box treatment options.

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The osteopathic manipulative technique has been a cornerstone of best education for physical therapists.  The craniosacral approach is an offshoot from that tradition.  When we get to visceral mobilization, the evidence is much harder to produce but that does not have me shy away from its application.

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Movement is critical for the hormonal regulation of the body.  Chronic stasis leads to numerous changes that compound an underlying medical diagnosis.  We see that with a 16 y/o female, Lyme’s disease, CRPS diagnosis, bedridden for years.  She is significantly benefiting from stretching dysfunction and improving axial extension.  Another who quit walking had global lower limb connective tissue contracture.  Walking is currently limited by soft tissue contracture through the tarsal tunnel, affecting the plantar nerves and the burning and tingling with walking greater than 5 minutes at a time.  Mobilizing the soft tissues will ultimately restore function. This 20 year old quit college due to pain and one first visit requested motorized wheelchair and Social Security Disability. This young person will walk again.

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There is no end point to this educational process except when we think we know it all.  No certification, no degree, no one course signifies competency.  Ongoing intellectual curiosity is the most important element in preparation.

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Prescription painkiller overdose epidemic in the U.S.

Not in other countries

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Pain Management centers at major universities closed in 1991. They lose money, are time consuming, require team conferences that are not reimbursable. Thus began the era when prescription opioids took off for noncancer pain, and no one was generating nonopioid approaches to chronic pain. Anesthesiologists shifted to procedures – that is their focus after all. Procedures are not applicable to many types of pain.

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“Since 1999, the amount of prescription painkillers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report.”

from the CDC report of prescription painkiller overdose epidemic

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I feel I have failed when I have to point out to my own patient whose pain is severe, that the high dose opioid I have prescribed is not helping, or is creating pain; when I know there are other options which are not available because the FDA has not approved them or because they are prohibitively expensive. I have failed when so many medications I prescribe are not on the formulary.

 

We need a mandatory formulary available for those with intractable pain.

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There were 16,651 deaths from prescription opioids in the U.S.in 2010, “Starting with 4,030 deaths in 1999….” “…nearly 60 percent of the drug overdose deaths (22,134) involved pharmaceutical drugs. Opioid analgesics, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, were involved in about 3 of every 4 pharmaceutical overdose deaths (16,651).” It’s far higher now. A CDC report stated that one in every 20 U.S. adults has a history of [opioid] use – not abuse, but use.

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Monitor risk, yes, but that should not get all the investment. Many addicts would not be there if there were better treatments for pain, if they had not been given opioids after a minor procedure or injury that is better treated with real therapy, not drugs.

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People with pain do not mention the pain has taken their lives. We may see them as weak. That young child with fractures on the ball field is going to need the best care so pain does not become chronic. Give him or her opioids and opioids cause pain, pain becomes worse, intractable before the 6th grade. That is not an addict, but that child and his or her parents are often treated like addicts, at least with suspicion, drug seeking. What is best for that child with chronic pain when she becomes pregnant? When nursing? Think of our young veterans, some with 3 or 4 different pains, and each type addressed differently. What if either of them was an addict before the pain? If we don’t treat them, they will turn to drugs. What are the best, most efficient, options for treatment of intractable pain? When will we learn? We need to identify and treat before it becomes chronic.

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Chronic pain can be reduced or eliminated in many situations now even possibly without drugs, provided the issue is properly identified – and that will never happen until providers are educated in how to identify first class physical therapy. Further research will help to release persons with intractable pain from the prison that too often makes them feel that life is unbearable and that they can more easily face death. We all need to wake up to this situation.

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If we continue to passively allow nothing to be done, then there may be nothing to help us when we fall into the sudden bind of intractable pain when we wake up one day with shingles or a pinched nerve or when pain of the face prevents us from eating or sleeping or speaking or even wanting to live. It will be too late.

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Sharp like a razor’s edge is the path,
The sages say, difficult to traverse.

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Shall we let those we love hang on the edge while we fail to move this multi-tentacled monster forward? How do we light the fire that enables us to solve this fearful fragmentation of choices?

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See how beautifully it works when the right combinations are brought together?

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Yellow rose blue hibiscus

 

 

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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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This site is not for email and not for appointments.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone the office to schedule.

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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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Question: Should I post a publication on suicide in persons with uncontrolled pain?


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I would like your feedback.

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Suicide does occur. My concern is that posting the publication on suicide in persons who have one specific pain syndrome will open the door for others to act on suicide. There is a tool to leave a comment on bottom of this page. Even simpler, I’ve also added a poll that you can follow.

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It is very difficult for anyone to cope with severe pain, especially given the medical system in this country that seems to “push” opioids without teaching that opioids create pain. Insurance covers the cost of opioids, often more than $17,000 per month. Congress supports that insurance coverage and the high costs.

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But Congress mandates that Medicare does not cover highly effective compounded medications that are low cost but, in combination, do add up monthly. In the last year, more and more PPO insurers “save” money, by not covering low cost compounded medication that works. This insures greater and greater medical costs, hospitalizations, and your taxes paid for Social Security disability for those in pain who cannot work.

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Of course no one will do research on these generic medications because they won’t make billions for anyone, not for universities, for NIH, or for pharmaceutical companies. Without the specific research on pain, they won’t be “legitimate” or approved for treatment of pain though the medications have been FDA approved for decades and available to those wealthy enough to afford them. These are profoundly valuable, they are available now, and decades of work should not be ignored.

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What if you were to develop intractable pain? The first point is to remember that this is common, it may happen. The second is to ask what the most constructive reaction would be if that actually happened to you.

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What can you do? I urge you to donate to the RSD Syndrome Association – see banner at top of these pages. They have supported key research in pain, not just RSD, when NIH gave less than half of 1% to pain research in 2006, now far less since the deadly recession of 2008 and the ever threatened fight over funding the national debt. Your donation may prevent the end of career for young researchers who have trained all their lives to find the cure for pain.

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People seem to ignore pain and instead donate to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease. But those conditions are often associated with chronic pain. When will this change? When will we realize that research in pain needs to become a priority? Our researchers have the tools now, and need your support.

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                                                                             sigh….

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Here’s the poll:

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

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

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Americans Struggle to Pay for Healthcare – 40% Delaying Treatments or Services


A survey on health behavior from 100,000 households

*25 percent of households have trouble paying

*40 percent expect to delay care this summer

*Baby boomers hardest hit

“The percentage of households that had difficulty in paying for care in the last year was statistically unchanged between March and April (about 25 percent).”

They found 40 percent of all households planned to postpone care in the coming three months, with about 15 percent planning to put off routine doctor visits.

Baby Boomers were four times more likely than seniors to have trouble paying for healthcare, according to the report.

Not surprisingly, those on Medicare “were the least likely to delay care.” Youth were also less likely, probably because they have fewer health problems.

Haunted by the dirty work of managed care & that deadly piece of paper: “Denied”


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“I know how managed care maims and kills patients”

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I will never forget the snarly laughter of a “medical” reviewer two weeks ago as he denied medication to my patient that the same PPO had been authorizing for years. My patient has been haunted by the man’s laughter since then. Denial of continuing medication is happening more and more despite California law that “grandfathers” in ongoing care for previously covered medication. See my post here.

It is “DESUETUDE.” It refers to the condition where a law has gone unenforced for so long that it is considered ‘obsolete.’ The law has not been repealed, but — here’s the clincher — the law has “collapsed into unenforcibility.” (quote from William M. Lamers, Jr, MD)

For years we have had spreadsheet medicine: Denial only for medication that is costly. It’s getting worse, more brazen.

Now that much new medication is unaffordable, priced far beyond the rate of a decade of inflation, what do we do with lawmakers that will not negotiate volume discount prices with pharmaceutical companies? How long will the middle class be able to afford common medication?  There isn’t another first world country on the planet that does not negotiate volume pricing.

Why are safe older pain medications being taken off the formulary?

Did you know that prices on best selling medicines may go up as much as 20 to 30% each year, though they’ve been on the market for years?

What is worse, managed care bloodlessly denies life saving procedures. A bloodless coup that rarely makes the news.

Physician Confesses to Congress, Choking Back Tears

Dr. Lynn DiPino [spelling?], former medical reviewer for Humana went before Congress to make “a public confession.”

This doctor, who acted as a reviewer for an insurance company, denied life saving surgery for a man and thus caused his death, saving “the company half a million dollars.”

Her decision to deny surgery insured her continued advancement in healthcare. “I went from making a few hundred dollars a week as a medical reviewer to an escalating six figure income as a physician executive.” “I was told repeatedly I was not denying care, I was simply denying payment. I know how managed care maims and kills patients. So I am here to tell you about the dirty work of managed care.”

As the video continues on the origins of managed care, it goes back to February 17, 1971, when Ehrlichman discusses Kaiser HMO with President Richard Nixon : “All the incentives are for less medical care because the less care they give, the more profit they make.”

Nixon smiles, his eyes narrow as if he is savoring fine wine, and says, “Not bad.”

Health Insurers Refuse to Limit Rescission of Coverage

withering criticism from Republican and Democratic Congress members

Today in Los Angeles Times

Even Republicans were appalled when “[e]xecutives of three of the nation’s largest health insurers told federal lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that they would continue canceling medical coverage for some sick policyholders, despite withering criticism from Republican and Democratic members of Congress who decried the practice as unfair and abusive….

An investigation by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations showed that health insurers WellPoint Inc.[parent of Blue Cross of California], UnitedHealth Group and Assurant Inc. canceled the coverage of more than 20,000 people, allowing the companies to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims over a five-year period.

It also found that policyholders with breast cancer, lymphoma and more than 1,000 other conditions were targeted for rescission and that employees were praised in performance reviews for terminating the policies of customers with expensive illnesses.

…Rescission was largely hidden until three years ago, when The Times launched a series of stories disclosing that insurers routinely canceled the medical coverage of individual policyholders who required expensive medical care.

…A Texas nurse said she lost her coverage, after she was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer, for failing to disclose a visit to a dermatologist for acne.

The sister of an Illinois man who died of lymphoma said his policy was rescinded for the failure to report a possible aneurysm and gallstones that his physician noted in his chart but did not discuss with him.

The committee’s investigation found that WellPoint’s Blue Cross targeted individuals with more than 1,400 conditions, including breast cancer, lymphoma, pregnancy and high blood pressure. And the committee obtained documents that showed Blue Cross supervisors praised employees in performance reviews for rescinding policies.

One employee, for instance, received a perfect 5 for “exceptional performance” on an evaluation that noted the employee’s role in dropping thousands of policyholders and avoiding nearly $10 million worth of medical care.

…Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show “intentional fraud.”

The answer from all three executives:

“No.”

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said that a public insurance plan should be a part of any overhaul because it would force private companies to treat consumers fairly or risk losing them.

“This is precisely why we need a public option,” Dingell said.

…In November 2007, The Times reported that insurer Health Net Inc. paid bonuses to employees based in part on their involvement in rescinding policies. According to internal corporate documents disclosed through litigation, Health Net saved $35 million over six years by rescinding policies.

The disclosures in part led an arbitration judge to levy $9 million in damages against Health Net in a case involving the company’s rescission of the policy of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer.

At the time, Blue Cross told The Times that it did not link employee performance reviews to rescission. Blue Cross also said at the time that it had conducted audits to ensure that claims reviewers were not given any “carrots” for canceling coverage.

The company reiterated that position Tuesday in spite of the committee’s disclosure of two employee performance evaluations from 2003 discussing rescission levels and savings.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

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

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3% of Medical Schools Have a Course on Pain Management


Corrections have been made to my previous post

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Persistent pain has a prevalence of 1 in 5 of the population

at an annual cost of $1.85 billion per 1 million population.

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Does Pain Management Have a Place in American Healthcare?

Pain focused courses foster affective awareness and shape values formation in medical learners.


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Symposium on Pain Management Aimed at Medical School Students

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Yale’s Medical Bulletin, Published: May 16, 2008

New Haven, Conn. — Physicians-in-training learned about an important aspect of patient care — pain management — at a symposium held recently at the Yale School of Medicine.

In recent years, pain has been designated as one of the vital signs indicating a patient’s well-being by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and pain management is being widely accepted as a basic human right. Yet only 3% of the nation’s medical schools, including Yale, currently have a separate course in pain management. [emphasis mine]

As a first step in its efforts to include separate training in pain management as part of its curriculum, the School of Medicine recently hosted the inaugural Yale Multidisciplinary Pain Management Symposium. The event was organized by student Ninani Kombo under the guidance of faculty adviser Dr. Nalini Vadivelu, associate professor of anesthesiology, with support from the medical school’s Offices of Education and of Student Affairs, as well as the Graduate Professional Student Senate.

The symposium featured presentations on “Pain Pathways,” “Clinical Perspectives in Pain Management,” “Interventional Pain Management,” “Psychology and Pain Management” and “Legal Considerations of Pain Management.” The speakers included Vadivelu, Dr. Sam Chung and Dr. Raymond Sinatra of the Department of Anesthesiology; Dr. Michele Johnson of the Department of Interventional Radiology; Layne Goble, a psychologist at the West Haven Veterans Hospital; and Robert Burt, the Alexander M. Bickel Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Two physicians also brought in patients so the students could talk with them and learn more about their personal experiences and challenges in living with chronic pain. One, who suffers from migraines, is a patient of Dr. Bahman Jabbari, professor of neurology; and the other, who has sickle cell anemia, is a patient of Dr. Thomas Duffy, professor of internal medicine and hematology.

Plans call for the symposium to continue as an annual event, and to be included within the neurology module of the second-year medical curriculum.

“This will continue to be a multidisciplinary pain symposium and in true Yale medical school tradition it will be organized by medical student volunteers,” says Vadivelu, who will continue to serve as faculty adviser for the initiative. “In the near future, the pain management curriculum may be expanded to include didactic case studies in pain management during the third and fourth years of medical school.

“This commitment,” she adds, “makes Yale School of Medicine one of the leaders among U.S. medical schools in formal pain management education.”

PRESS CONTACT: Office of Public Affairs 203-432-1345

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A letter from Yale professors April 2009, to the Editor of the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges

Academic Medicine:
April 2009 – Volume 84 – Issue 4 – p 408
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819a8358
Letters to the Editor
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The Urgent Need for Pain Management Training

Vadivelu, Nalini MD; Kombo, Ninani; Hines, Roberta L. MD

To the Editor: Approximately 50 million people in the United States suffer from persistent pain,1 and pain treatment cuts across most medical disciplines. Despite huge strides in understanding pain, there is a major gap between that understanding and pain diagnosis and treatment. In the 21st century, pain management is being accepted as a basic human right.2 Thus, it is even more important to train medical students to be competent in the areas of pain assessment and treatment. However, few physicians graduating from U.S. medical schools have had comprehensive multidisciplinary pain education as part of their medical school curricula. This was shown in an AAMC survey in 2000-2001, which found that only 3% of medical schools had a separate course in pain management in their curricula1; the situation is not much better today. [emphasis mine] Although a free, Internet-based CD-ROM textbook on pain was developed for medical students in 2003 by the American Academy of Pain Medicine, we feel there is an urgent need for formal pain management training within the medical school curriculum.

Pain education in medical schools could be in the form of pain symposiums, pain workshops, lecture series, and clinical rotations in pain management, according to what is available and feasible in each school. Interinstitutional elective rotations in pain management and summer research projects with resulting research publications in pain should also be encouraged. Funding for the latter is available from, for example, Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research grants to medical students from the American Society of Anesthesiologists. We at Yale have incorporated formal pain education into our curriculum using a multidisciplinary pain symposium at the second-year level with case studies for third- and fourth-year students.

We believe that medical schools worldwide should establish formal pain management education in each year of their curricula. [emphasis mine] This will enable graduating physicians everywhere to be well equipped to ease their patients’ pain.

Nalini Vadivelu, MD

Associate professor, Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut; (nalini.vadivelu@yale.edu).

Ninani Kombo

Fifth-year medical student, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

Roberta L. Hines, MD

Professor and chair, Department of Anesthesiology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

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

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FDA Restricting Opioids, Patients Lose – NIH Does Not Fund Pain Research – No Access to Nonopioid Treatment


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The War on Drugs Sold so Well That Persons With Pain

Often Cannot Get Pain Medication or Treatment

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Don’t read this. It will upset you.

The federal government has always been more interested in addicts than in persons who are disabled with intractable pain. Billions are spent to imprison addicts rather than pay for addiction programs which would be far less expensive.

Only 3% of medical schools have a course in pain management, Yale announced in 2008. According to the International Association for the Study of Pain, the IASP, education on pain is poor at either the preclinical or clinical levels and information is poorly integrated.” Fewer than 3% of recent graduates have had a few hours of training. This means that unless your doctor is among that small 3% that has recently graduated, they have had no training in pain control. None. And the FDA ignores the extensive training of pain specialists when approving limitations on new medications.

Worst of all, NIH spends 0.67% of its budget on pain research – less than 1% – though 10 to 20% of the population in the US suffers from chronic pain, an estimated 60 million Americans, and the conditions are more prevalent among the elderly. Addiction funding is the only reason neuroscientists in the early 1970’s were able to identify opioid receptors and then to clone them, which legitimized pain in cancer patients and led to use of opioids for cancer pain in the 1970’s and for noncancer pain in the 1990’s.

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Pain Epidemic:

Does Pain Management Have a Place in American Healthcare?

Today, there is too much reliance on opioids for pain because there is little or no NIH research on alternatives. Or maybe because your doctor does not know any other treatment than to prescribe an opioid. Or because Medicare will not pay for the amount of physical therapy you need. Opioids are overprescribed. This increases the risk of opioids being diverted and falling into the hands of addicts, leading to deaths and headlines that will no doubt limit your ability to be treated for pain. How many of you know Medicare has been limiting physical therapy for years? If you use all your treatment by mid February, they will not pay for more no matter how often you fracture your hip or herniate a disc. Is it right for them to pay for opioid pain medication and not physical therapy?

Just think of it. Before the early 1970’s, we had no pain societies, no hospices, no use of opioids for cancer patients (unless they happened to be hospitalized), no oral opioids, no oral morphine — why the very thought that oral morphine could work was argued against vehemently by the chief of the pain service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in NYC, in December 1975 at the first meeting of the IASP. The first meeting. 1975. Think of it. He argued that oral morphine would be metabolized so rapidly that it would pass out of the body and not be there to help.

William Lamers, Jr., MD

William M. Lamers, Jr., MD

In the early 1970’s if you had pain, you were not legitimate because we simply did not know there were such things as opioid receptors nor did we have oral opioid medication.

Now re-imagine that vehement argument in 1975 again, knowing that my dear friend William M. Lamers, Jr., MD, was the first in the world to use oral morphine when he founded home hospice in America 5 or 6 years before that date. He invited Dr. Cicely Saunders to California to teach her how to use oral morphine at her hospice, and following that, St. Christopher’s Hospice in London stopped using the ineffective Brompton’s Cocktail that caused so many side effects with so much less pain relief. Their research a few years later enabled Dr. Robert Twycross from St. Christopher’s Hospice to stride to the stage in 1975 at the IASP meeting, and report their work with oral morphine, to the applause of the Brits.

Let me be clear, I am gravely concerned that the use of opioids for nonmalignant pain will lead to a dire problem with opioid induced hyperalgesia in our large population of pain patients. If not hyperalgesia, the benefit of relief is undercut by the pain they create as shown by recent research on glia. Opioids create pain at the same time they relieve pain.

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We Are Not Getting Access to Effective Nonopioid Treatments

Worst of all, unless opioids are low cost, your insurance – PPO, Medicare, Medicaid – will not authorize several profoundly important nonopioid medications that help and/or relieve intractable disabling pain in many of my patients:

  • Namenda an NMDA antagonist that was shown in European research in 2001 to be effective for severe pain at a dose of 55 mg per day; in the US it is approved only for dementia at a dose of 20 mg per day. Insurance will not cover the dose needed; patients cannot afford it.
  • Compounded capsules and ointments may be the only thing that helps others, but are often not approved.
  • Naltrexone and other morphinans – see my post on naltrexone –  may relieve disabling pain, but compounded medications are often not approved
  • Medical marijuana research has been forbidden by the federal government despite active research and use of approved compounds in Canada and UK for severe intractable pain. Marijuana is in a class of chemicals called cannabinoids. Our brain makes cannabinoids and has receptors where they act. A synthetic cannabinoid  is FDA approved in the US for chemotherapy induced vomiting. The cost of one mg capsules is $400 for 20 – who can afford that?  In Canada, it is used for pain patients at bedtime to relieve severe pain that prevents sleep. Yet in California where inexpensive medical marijuana is legal, the Obama Department of Justice has continued the prosecution of Charles Lynch, a legitimate marijuana dispensary owner.  He was convicted on federal drug charges despite carefully following state and local law in setting up and running his business and being fully licensed by the state. He had the full support of the mayor and city council, yet he was sentenced to a year and a day in jail last week – the Obama DOJ pushed for a mandatory 5 years jail. Federal law prevented him from testimony in his own defense, presumably because federal law excludes states rights and the issue that marijuana sales may interfere with interstate commerce. For discussion of this and the bill introduced Thursday by Rep. Barney Frank, HR 2835, to legalize medical marijuana, see here. There was a time in the recent past when hospice doctors in the US made marijuana suppositories to relieve severe pain and nausea in dying cancer patients. In Mexico, marijuana is used in ointments by the elderly to relieve arthritis pain. 100 years ago, it was mentioned in some medical textbooks in America. And U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk calls for 25 years in prison for first time trafficking offense.
  • Marijuana: Effective for severe pain, safe, nontoxic, inexpensive and illegal.
  • The legal status of prescribing as well as the legal status of using marijuana is needlessly complicated. The Federal Government is clear… prescribing and use are both criminal offenses. Nothing is for certain except that the legal status is a mess.
  • Unrelieved suffering leads to an intensification of pain that may result in depression, withdrawal, irritability, anger and sometimes even hostility to caregivers.

NSAID –  nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug – use is discouraged in the elderly.  NSAIDs pose severe risk to the elderly and cannot be used in others due to heart disease, gastric intolerance, ulcers, GERD, anemia, bleeding, kidney disease, asthma, and those who are on various medications such as Plavix or Coumadin. Further, heavy NSAID use leads to higher dementia risk (see my post on this).

Some nonopioid alternatives cannot be used in those with liver or kidney conditions, men over 50 who still have a prostate, persons who wish to avoid suddenly becoming obese (Lyrica), those with allergies or intolerance to their side effects because the drug makes the fall backwards or suppresses their bone marrow.

Worse than those issues, we have only a few opioids which work on specific opioid receptors, some are more specific for neuropathic pain or for allodynia, yet since September 2008, the FDA has removed several of the older opioids from the shelf with no reason given to pharmacists or MD’s. I have spent hours calling pharmacies to see if they stock a medication I wrote for a patient hours before they left the office holding their specialized prescription. You know very well that if a patient called asking about opioids in stock they’d be looked upon as an addict, and many pharmacies will not stock opioids with the excuse they would be robbed. No matter you are in severe pain, you must wait 72 hours until they stock it. 

Even with insurance, your PPO will not authorize many if not most of the medications I prescribe and the cost of medication is surely the #1 reason.  That is true for opioids and nonopioid medication I use for pain control. Many are off label for pain, others are off label for anyone  who does not have cancer despite severe disabling pain, therefore not covered. If you are wealthy, you can purchase any medication prescribed.

Opioids are a distinct issue and outrageously expensive compared to the pennies cost of the raw drug. There is never a discussion of reducing costs of new drugs. Imagine $45 per unit, used 12 or 20 times per day in extreme, rare cases. Then imagine your PPO allowed prior authorization for 1 year, but then it was 6 months, then 2 months. What will happen next month? Hours and hours of non-reimbursed physician time is spent on these.  They could just save us all time if they published a list telling us what they will never ever ever reimburse no matter what. No wonder a radiologist or cardiologist or a doctor who does procedures makes millions every year. They don’t have to deal with the deafening “no.” The California law is never enforced that guarantees continuation of medication that is being used and that has been approved in the past for years. Requesting an independent appeal is a sham, the fox guarding the henhouse, paid by the same company that refused authorization.

The FDA has limited use of short acting fentanyl to cancer pain, thus PPO’s will often not authorize it without a cancer diagnosis.  News flash: there is no such thing as cancer pain. Patients without cancer have the same categories of pain that you do: involving abberent signals from nerve, viscera or other tissues. At the American Pain Society’s annual meeting in San Diego, May 2009, an FDA official admitted there were only 3 pain specialists on a panel of 11 MD’s that reviewed short acting fentanyl. It is likely the other 8 had no training in use of opioids.  Fewer than 3% of medical schools spend less than 30 hours over 4 years teaching pain management to medical students, and that is only in recent years, which means almost all physicians in practice today have had no training in use of opioids. Oncologists included. Do they think that pain specialists who have spent decades in the field have no understanding of opioids? If so, then why do they not limit all strong opioids to persons with cancer? or is this coming? Politicians do not like headlines about addicts who overdose themselves.

The special case of Subutex and Suboxone which is buprenorphine alone or with naloxone. Buprenorphine is an old drug, a long acting opioid that has unique effect at kappa opioid receptors and it is said it may help allodynia better than other opioids. PPO insurance will not authorize Subutex (buprenorphine) for my patients with pain, or if they do, they will authorize only one of the two, Subutex, but not the other, even though the one they will pay for causes intractable migraine but not the other. In Europe, both are approved for pain or for addiction, just like we use methadone here.  But our FDA has limited use to addicts, though it is an important opioid that we might use for pain. This means PPO insurance will not pay for it. This new formulation of Suboxone or Subutex in a sublingual tablet means it is very expensive, and I have patients in pain, weeping that they cannot afford it and must go back on their Oxycontin that works less well.

Unique issues for oral short acting fentanyl and Subutex or Suboxone: both will absorb directly in the mouth which is important for some persons with colitis, abdominal surgery, bariatric surgery, other conditions with poor GI absorption of tablets such as celiac disease, and those who are unable to use fentanyl patches due to skin allergies.

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Need for Balance between Risk of Substance Abuse

vs  Suffering and Disability Caused by Untreated Pain?

The FDA and Congress voice concern about addiction, but how much do they care about pain? Actions speak louder than words and the lack of NIH funding for pain research is shocking. Pain does not make newspaper headlines though pain is the #1 reason people seek medical help, more so as the population ages.

Here are more policy and headline issues that will make it harder for people with pain to get the care they need:

FDA, Pain Docs Look to Cut Abuse of Pain Killers“FDA said it was working on a plan to make it tougher for people to abuse certain prescription painkillers….” From the comments: “Regardless of great efforts to reverse this trend, physicians who legitimately prescribe opioids for pain may still feel ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t.’ It seems as though we have simultaneously raised consciousness of the need for pain control and increased the risks to physicians of being part of the solution. If this dilemma is not resolved, advancing the cause of pain management as a fundamental human right may, in part, serve to polarize the medical community.”

F.D.A. to Place New Limits on Prescriptions of Narcotics “This is going to be a massive program,” according to Dr. John K. Jenkins, director of the F.D.A.’s new drug center.”  “…a law passed in 2007 gave the agency a new, intermediate weapon — Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies. Known as REMS, these programs allow the agency to place strong restrictions on the distribution of certain drugs.”

Increased Scrutiny of Opioids Could Alter Prescribing Practice “If a formal risk reduction plan for opioid painkillers increases the regulatory burden on physicians, they may simply stop prescribing such drugs, to the detriment of patients in severe pain, the FDA was told Thursday.” Most physicians have no training in pain management, yet instead of requiring more education, regulation of doctors makes it harder to treat persons with legitimate pain and may have no effect on addicts and illegal diversion that they are really trying to regulate. Suggestions were made at a public hearing, quoted here:

  • If a REMS does end up imposing requirements on physicians, positive incentives should be put in place to fund and support training in pain management, such as waiving or reducing the fee clinicians now must pay to the DEA for the privilege of prescribing Schedule II drugs
  • But clinicians do not currently have the tools to enforce proper distribution and use of narcotics, and need more support and training, said Jennifer Bolen, founder of the Legal Side of Pain and the Pain Law Institute. “It’s dangerous and irresponsible to use physicians to teach the law,” Bolen said. She said state medical licensing boards, health insurance plans, and law enforcement officials must play a big role in enforcing the REMS.
  • But the FDA is not a criminal enforcement agency, said John Jenkins, M.D., director of the Office of New Drugs at the FDA.
  • One suggestion from a number of speakers is that the FDA require opioid manufacturers to put serial numbers or microchips in opioid tablets, linked to the prescription that released them to a patient. That way, if law enforcement officials seize pills, the prescriber and patient can be easily traced.
  • The FDA is already considering serial numbers on some classes of medication for a different reason — to confirm the integrity of the supply chain.
  • Other speakers suggested creating opioid medications that are “less abusable” such as crush-proof pills. However, formulations intended to thwart abuse have been tried before. That was the original intent behind Oxycontin, the brand of extended-release oxycodone that ended up widely abused.While it’s up to the FDA to decide what a REMS will look like, it’s the responsibility of drug companies to enforce the new regulations.
  • the two-day hearing was peppered with emotional testimonies from people whose family members overdosed on opioid drugs that they obtained illegally.
  • the FDA might convene an advisory committee before any REMS is finalized.

Addiction is a very important issue. Families are best in a position to see what is happening to members who have addiction problems, but addiction programs are poorly funded and many Americans are uninsured, especially the young who are most vulnerable to chemical dependency. Can families help someone who does not want to be helped?

I want to make it very clear that all of us, myself included, are responsible for reducing addiction, misuse of prescription drugs, and diversion in this country. Yes, that means anyone who gives someone else a pill from their prescribed medication, no matter how harmless it may seem. If that is a pain drug, your pain specialist can go to jail for 30 years even if he or she did not know about it. Never give one of your prescription pills to anyone else.

Designing high tech remedies to prevent opioid tablets from being injected or inhaled by addicts will increase the cost of your pain medication.  It is already difficult to afford without new technology, and why is it so expensive since many are now old drugs and the raw material costs pennies?

If we become disabled or develop chronic pain, there is often no money for the multidisciplinary approach to pain management that is essential for treatment: extreme limits on physical therapy, no cognitive behavioral therapy, no coverage at all for many medications that I prescribe. Some of my patients who are still working are afraid they will be laid off at work if they limp, are slow or show they have pain. This is not unlike my cancer patients who fear public knowledge they have cancer. But the rising insurance cost to their employer is Darwinian evolution at its cruelest, untouched by the human mind and heart. Free for the rich, for profiteering off the most vulnerable.

Cost of high tech pills to deter addicts. We thank the FDA for their guidance in requiring opioid manufacturers to make it more difficult for addicts to abuse these drugs, but does the cost of that new technology make these medications unaffordable for the average person, especially the disabled and elderly who may need them more than others. Is the FDA pulling older and more affordable opioids off the shelf because they do not have this new technology? Is the cost of medical care and denial of coverage being driven by the 5% of addicts in this country, by expensive prison empires to house them, by headlines and politicians?

Cost is the issue that limits care. When Medicare & PPO coverage is cut for all of us, will the cost of drugs be one of the major reasons? Answer: it already is.

Remember, the FDA does not have a majority of pain specialists on pain-related advisory committees, only 3 out of 11 MD’s sat on the FDA committee that limited use of short acting fentanyl medication for cancer pain. Opioids may be an essential option for some of my patients yet their PPO will not pay for it — it’s restricted to cancer patients. PPO’s will not pay for many nonopioids used for pain either.

Does the FDA think oncologists know more about treating pain than a pain specialist? The answer is definitely no! Oncologists do not, and some abuse their power to prevent pain relief. Research has shown severe untreated pain in 34% of cancer patients among oncology specialists in the Northeastern US, and likely far more in other areas. There are many untold stories about oncologists who do not treat pain or who use poor practice treating pain, even at major cancer centers. Pain is not their priority and most spend no time learning the needed expertise.

So no coverage for PT, for off label medication, for compounded medication, for opioids restricted to cancer pain, for expensive medication, and increasing regulation for older and more affordable opioids if they have not been pulled off the shelf by the FDA.

Cost cuts imposed major losses in pain management. PPO cuts were severe at least as far back as the mid 1980’s. In 1990, UCLA closed its Anesthesiology Interdisciplinary Pain Center, only 15 years after the first international pain society meeting. Laid off with two weeks notice was the President of the American Pain Society and distinguished researchers in the field. Soon after that, in the hallways of the annual pain society meeting, whispered rumors spread that almost all university centers had closed their interdisciplinary pain centers. Only a few remained, but there was silence on the subject from the platforms and leadership and media. UCLA paved over the only therapeutic swimming pool in the greater Los Angeles area in order to build yet another radiology center.

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The Era for Procedures

There has been a rapid increase in interventional procedures with almost all pain specialists shifting to high reimbursement and easily funded techniques, but where’s the science? Read the practice guidelines of the Academy of Neurology and American Pain Society on epidurals and nerve blocks. Where are the studies that show their benefit? Are they suitable as the best choice?

Pain management requires individualized care that involves analysis and specific treatment based upon many factors. Medicare and PPO’s will pay for procedures which are inversely proportional to the time needed for analysis. There is no single evidence based protocol that can be applied to every one such as there is for chest pain.

With so little research funding and so little training going into pain management,  politics may make the treatment of pain subject to more and more irrational or unaffordable choices.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

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

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Controversy on Medication Coverage – “step therapy” (also known as “fail first”)


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Insurance Industry Opposes Physician’s Choice of Medication for Pain Relief

The best or just the cheapest?

Before I define “step therapy,” let me introduce Forgrace.org, a nonprofit organization “Dedicated to Ensuring the Ethical and Equal Treatment of All Women in Pain.”   Based in Los Angeles, the organization was formed in 2002 by John Garrett, Executive Director, and his partner Cynthia Toussaint, an accomplished ballerina who has suffered with CRPS (and later fibromyalgia) for 26 years. Thanks to their leadership advocating for health care reform in California, today they announce that

For Grace and HAAF’s bill, AB 1144, was heard by the California Assembly Health Committee in Sacramento yesterday (April 21) and it passed overwhelmingly with a vote of 14-2.  There was strong opposition from the health insurance industry – and this effort will be an uphill climb as we move the bill along to the Senate.

Also, today, ABC News national covered the issue of “step-therapy” (also known as “fail first”) along with our bill, that if signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger, will abolish this unethical prescription practice that negatively impacts women in pain.  Ms. Toussaint pitched this story, consulted and interviewed for it.

Because of its importance to every single one of my patients whose lives hang by the constant threat of an indifferent refusal by insurance carriers to continue providing medication that they require, I am posting almost the entire ABC News article titled Patients Irate With Insurers’ ‘Fail First’ Policy by Dan Childs

What Is Step Therapy?

The basic idea behind step therapy is to start with the most cost-effective and safest treatment, progressing to more costly or risky therapy only if the current treatment is not effective. In theory, proponents say, the strategy both minimizes risks to the patient and keeps overall costs under control.

Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, said that when it comes to the bigger picture, step therapy is a key element in making the country’s health care system more efficient by creating a standard system of care from state to state. He said that this saves costs, and it also ensures that patients get access to therapies that have been proved to be medically effective.

“We see individuals with the exact same illnesses get drastically different treatment depending on where they live,” he said. “Right now there is no correlation between the money being spent and the health outcomes being advanced. Our goal is to help guide the patient.”

Dr. Forest Tennant, head of the Veract Intractable Pain Clinic and editor of the trade magazine Practical Pain Management, is also Cook’s doctor. He agreed that in theory, step therapy is not a bad strategy. And he added that doctors have traditionally employed a form of step therapy, in which they would gradually increase the dose of a given medication for a patient who was not responding until they were able to achieve the desired effect.

Doctors Employ Different ‘Step Therapy’

And even when it comes to designing a course of treatment, Tennant agreed that a cheaper approach is preferable, as long as it works for the patient.

“Given the cost of some of the medications I prescribe, I also want the patient to try the cheaper medication first.”

But he said that the step therapy used by the health insurance industry is different in that it may actually place a preferred therapy out of reach of a patient. Particularly vulnerable may be pain patients like Cook and Toussaint, who have experienced success with a given medication but are switched to a different drug by an insurer.

“What we have today is a situation where a patient is knocked around in the system, usually after they’ve already tried something that works for them but which they can’t have,” he said. “All of a sudden, the drug that they have been taking for quite some time is pulled away from them — because it is more expensive, usually.

The Best — or Just the Cheapest?

According to data collected in 2006 by the health care analytics company Verispan, the drugs for which step therapy is most commonly used are anti-ulcer medications, with 58 percent of health insurance plans using step therapy for this class. The data also reveal that antidepressants are the fourth most common drugs subject to step therapy, with 45 percent of plans subjecting these to step therapy. Twenty-six percent of plans use step therapy for pain drugs, according to Verispan, and other drugs including heart medications and antipsychotics are also on the list.

Zirkelbach argued that in most cases, patients are allowed to switch drugs if the recommended option is not working for them, and if the drug that the patient is switching to is supported by medical evidence.

“If there is a good medical reason to switch to drug A versus drug B, health plans typically allow that to happen,” he said.

But he noted that how long a patient is required to stay on a given medication before making a switch varies from case to case. Doctors who prescribe a drug that is unapproved by the insurance company risk receiving what Tennant calls a “tantrum letter” from insurance companies.

“The insurance companies hire auditing firms, and they demand to know why I prescribe [patients] certain drugs,” he said.

The net effect, Tennant said, is a grave imposition on the doctor-patient relationship.

“I have to say [to patients], ‘I can’t tell you what you should take. I can only get you to get what your insurance can pay for, and I’ll design a regimen,'” he said. “For the expensive medicine, the doctor no longer chooses what he wants.”

And according to a Thomson Reuters study published in the February issue of The American Journal of Managed Care, step therapy may actually be more expensive for insurance companies, at least when it comes to patients receiving medication for high blood pressure.

Step Therapy May Not Be Cheaper

In the study, which was sponsored by Pfizer, researchers looked at insurance claims for 11,851 people with employer-sponsored health coverage that incorporated a step therapy protocol for high blood pressure drugs. These patients’ claims were compared with those of 30,882 patients on similar medication who did not participate in a step therapy program.

What the researchers found was that the group of patients treated for hypertension under the step therapy program had 3.1 percent lower drug costs. But these savings appear to have been wiped out by the apparent increase in hospital admissions and emergency room visits. Over two years, the step therapy patients incurred $99 more in healthcare costs per quarter, on average, than the control group.

Hope for Step Therapy?

If indeed California passes anti-step therapy legislation, it would not be the first to do so. New Jersey already prohibits such plans. And even the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may be considering regulations to limit step therapy by health plans available to Medicare patients.

But Robert Taketomo, president and CEO of the Glendale, Calif.-based managed care contracting services organization Ventegra, warned that if such legislation passed in the state, patients may find that other parts of their coverage will be cut back to compensate.

“As long as healthcare is a benefit, and not a right, then measures such as step therapy are important means of preserving pharmacy benefits,” he said. “If step therapy were to be prohibited through legislative means, there are other means through which a payor — whether they be government, health insurer or employer — could limit their cost exposure in pharmacy.

“These could include removal from formulary, increases in copayment, addition of deductibles (and increasing them), or ‘carving out’ pharmacy altogether and just cover medical expenses.”

Tennant said he believes the true solution to the problem does not lie with new laws.

“There has to be some goodwill meeting of the minds for the people who practice medicine, those who need the help, and the people who are paying for it,” he said. “Most of the [insurance companies] are trying to develop formularies comprehensive enough to get the job done without compromising patient care too much.”

But Cook said that as long as her insurance adheres to a step therapy policy, she and other pain patients will worry about her medication one day becoming unaffordable.

“We all know that our lives could change at a moment’s notice if the insurance companies say, ‘Change,'” she said.

To view some of Ms. Toussaint’s presentation to the media, including her “fail first” experiences… on the second page of their “Videos” go here.

Her focus has now shifted to bringing a single-payer, universal health care plan to all in California which will provide a model for the rest of the country.

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

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