Donate to RSDSA to Relieve Nerve Pain


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*****HAPPY HOLIDAYS*****

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PLEASE DONATE TO RSDSA

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FOR RESEARCH INTO

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TREATMENT OF NERVE PAIN

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There is no more highly focused nonprofit organization than the RSDSA for research and treatment of neuropathic pain and that is why the link to them is always at the **top banner** of these pages describing them in detail.

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For decades, they have led the field — little thanks to NIH that gave less than half of 1% to all pain research in 2008. Why should anyone care when pain doesn’t kill you—–right?

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People die of cardiac disease or cancer. They get all the money for research and we all forget about decades of awful quality of life, career ending disability and worse. 

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Research funding raised by RSDSA is awarded for research into RSD but that almost always applies to nerve pain in general, not to just one rare condition. It is always the most difficult to treat. 

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Please remember them generously. They help so many with education, outreach, conferences among the world’s foremost researchers, and funding to move the work forward.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

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

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Comments are welcome.

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

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

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

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Spinal Cord Stimulators – 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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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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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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PEA Palmitoylethanolamide – “Glia & Mast Cells as Target, An Anti-Inflammatory & Neuroprotective Lipid Mediator”


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Another oustanding article on palmitoylethanolamide “PEA.” I have seen profound results with it relieving intractable neuropathic pain in a woman with CRPS for years, and I suspect it may help Major Depressive Disorder but that remains to be tested.

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I need to add that opioids create pain. One mechanism by which that occurs is that opioids create pro-inflammatory cytokines, which creates more pain. Patients may see no response to essential pain relieving medications untill they taper off all opioids and allow the system to stabilize. Otherwise, they will have pain forever and it may increase.

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Glia and mast cells as targets for palmitoylethanolamide,

an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective lipid mediator

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Authors  Skaper SD, Facci L, Giusti P.

Mol Neurobiol. 2013 Oct;48(2):340-52.  Epub 2013 Jun 28.

Abstract

Glia are key players in a number of nervous system disorders. Besides releasing glial and neuronal signaling molecules directed to cellular homeostasis, glia respond also to pro-inflammatory signals released from immune-related cells, with the mast cell being of particular interest. A proposed mast cell-glia communication may open new perspectives for designing therapies to target neuroinflammation by differentially modulating activation of non-neuronal cells normally controlling neuronal sensitization-both peripherally and centrally. Mast cells and glia possess endogenous homeostatic mechanisms/molecules that can be upregulated as a result of tissue damage or stimulation of inflammatory responses. Such molecules include the N-acylethanolamines, whose principal family members are the endocannabinoid N-arachidonoylethanolamine (anandamide), and its congeners N-stearoylethanolamine, N-oleoylethanolamine, and N-palmitoylethanolamine (PEA). A key role of PEA may be to maintain cellular homeostasis when faced with external stressors provoking, for example, inflammation: PEA is produced and hydrolyzed by microglia, it downmodulates mast cell activation, it increases in glutamate-treated neocortical neurons ex vivo and in injured cortex, and PEA levels increase in the spinal cord of mice with chronic relapsing experimental allergic encephalomyelitis. Applied exogenously, PEA has proven efficacious in mast cell-mediated experimental models of acute and neurogenic inflammation. This fatty acid amide possesses also neuroprotective effects, for example, in a model of spinal cord trauma, in a delayed post-glutamate paradigm of excitotoxic death, and against amyloid β-peptide-induced learning and memory impairment in mice. These actions may be mediated by PEA acting through “receptor pleiotropism,” i.e., both direct and indirect interactions of PEA with different receptor targets, e.g., cannabinoid CB2 and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha.

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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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Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) – Boosting Its Anti-inflammatory Immune Response


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Discovery could lead to new immune-response drugs for allergies, illnesses and injuries

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Improved spinal cord injury & inflammation in mice

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Medical news November 17, 2009, announced that “UC Irvine pharmacology researchers have discovered a way to boost levels of a natural body fat that helps decrease inflammation, pointing to possible new treatments for allergies, illnesses and injuries related to the immune system.”

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“For decades, it has been known that this fat, called palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), is a potent anti-inflammatory substance that reduces both allergic symptoms and occurrences of rheumatic fever, but researchers understood little about how PEA works.”

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I”n a study appearing online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Daniele Piomelli, the Louise Turner Arnold Chair in Neurosciences at UCI, and colleagues found that levels of PEA are tightly regulated by immune system cells. In turn, PEA helps control the activity of these cells, which are called into action to fight infection, disease and injury in the body.”

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They found a protein, an enzyme that breaks down molecules that control cell inflammation and deactivates PEA. They then created a novel compound that prevents the breakdown.

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“When given to rodents, the compound increased the levels of PEA in their immune cells and reduced the amount of inflammation elicited by an inflammatory substance. Furthermore, when administered to the spinal cords of mice after spinal cord injury, the compound decreased inflammation associated with the trauma and improved the recovery of motor function.”

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UCI is collaborating with the Italian Institute of Technology in Genoa to develop a range of immune-response drugs. 

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Source: University of California – Irvine

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Refer an earlier post on PEA here.

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Palmitoylethanolamide is sold as PeaPure, a food supplement, available from the Netherlands and imported by a local pharmacy here. I have submitted a paper for publication on the treatment of vulvodynia and proctodynia with PeaPure and a topical cream. That source will be posted once it is accepted.

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I have been seeing some exciting responses to treatment of intractable pain with PeaPure. I invite others who use it to add comments below so that we may all learn from your experience.

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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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Please understand that it is not legal for me

to give medical advice without a consultation.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone my office.

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

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Treatment for Pain Could Last Months: Botox & Tetanus Chimera Injection


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Professor Bazbek Davletov now at Sheffield University, UK, reports his research that is featured on the cover of the October 2013 journal Bioconjugate Chemistry. He hopes the drug will cost around £1,000 a year, making it cheap enough for use on the NHS. It is authored by a 22-person team from 11 research institutes, including Lincoln University UK based Dr Enrico Ferrari.

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Dr Ferrari joined the School of Life Sciences in October last year from the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, where he took part in the development of a new way of joining and rebuilding molecules in the research group of Professor Bazbek Davletov who was then at the MRC.

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Taking components of clostridium botulinum and clostridium tetani neurotoxins – known as Botox and tetanus toxin – they re-joined the molecule proteins using a ‘protein stapling’ technology targeting central neurons without unwanted toxic effects.

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Science Daily announcement:

‘Chimera’ Protein Could Lead to Drug Treatments for Chronic Pain

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Lincoln University, UK, heralds this promising discovery:

Scientists synthesise new ‘chimera’ protein which could herald future drug treatments for chronic pain

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“Scientists have manufactured a new bio-therapeutic molecule that could be used to treat neurological disorders such as chronic pain and epilepsy.”

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The molecule was able to alleviate hypersensitivity to inflammatory pain.

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“Dr Ferrari, who is one of the lead authors of the study, said: “The toxins were split into parts so they were unable to function. Then later they were reassembled using a ‘zipping’ system so they can operate in a safe way. The re-engineered chimera toxin has very similar characteristics to Botox and is still able to block neurotransmission release, but the paralytic effect is a lot less. We then added a tetanus molecule which targets the chimera to where the pain signals travel towards the central nervous system.””

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“Dr Ferrari added: “Many painkillers relieve the pain temporarily and have various side effects. The selling point of this molecule is that the pain relief could last up to seven months….””

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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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Please understand that it is not legal for me

to give medical advice without a consultation.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone my office.

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

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Ketamine Rapidly Relieves Depression by Restoring Brain Connections


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This research is one of the most dramatic findings in the field of depression and mood disorders. It was published in Science by researchers from Yale and the National Institute of Mental Health, discussed by PBS here.

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The speed with which ketamine can relieve major depression is deeply moving to witness. In my experience prescribing nasal ketamine it works almost 100% of the time. I have discussed ketamine and previous publications on it for Major Depression and PTSD. It is also effective for suicidal and bipolar depression patients.

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Ronald S. Duman, PhD, the lead scientist, reviews his group’s research in this 2011 video:

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Stress and depression leads to structural changes in the brain and these structural changes are reversible.

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Depression affects 17% of the population, almost one in five of the population. Only one third of patients are effectively treated by existing antidepressants, even after many weeks. Nerve growth factors, in particular BDNF, are decreased by stress, with a very significant loss in depressed patients. BDNF produces antidepressant behavior in rodent models of depression.

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BDNF is important for influencing the survival and function of neurons.

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There are certain neurogenic zones in the brain that produce new neurons. Stress decreases the number of new neurons. Chronic antidepressant use increases the numbers and proliferation of these new neurons. Antidepressant treatment increases neurogenesis and this is dependent upon BDNF, this neurotrophic factor.

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[His slide shows] Exercise, Prozac, ECT, antipsychotics, antidepressants increase neurogenesis.

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Not only are there more synapses made by ketamine, but they are a larger size which is indicative of ones that are more functionally connected. Antidepressants take many weeks. A single dose of ketamine rapidly reverses depressive behaviors and loss of connections and completely reverses the decrements that had occurred over several weeks.

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In suicidal patients given ketamine at Yale in the Emergency Room, within a matter of hours, the suicidality is completely reversed. These people are better for weeks after a single dose of ketamine treatment. [emphasis mine]

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Therapeutically ketamine is even more rapidly acting than ECT.

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Ketamine increases BDNF. But research shows its effects are blocked in mice that are deficient in BDNF. Riluzole also influences BDNF, but the side effect profile is so serious that I would not consider prescribing it without more data on safety.

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Safety concerns are often raised in publications regarding chronic ketamine use. Most of my patients have no side effects at all. It is one of the safest medications we have and only a small percentage experience transient side effects. The favorable side effect profile, simplicity and low cost is key. The results for nasal ketamine are not 100%, neither is IV ketamine, but I have patients who respond to nasal spray when they failed IV ketamine. More importantly, they can carry it in their pocket and use as needed.

 

My experience prescribing ketamine goes back almost to the year 2000 for persons with chronic pain who have used ketamine several times daily, and since Spring 2012 for Major Depression. Its effect for depression lasts longer than for chronic intractable pain where it is short lasting. In the past, I prescribed it orally, by mouth, but since late 2011 I have prescribed it in a nasal spray and that form works for depression.

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The neuroprotective action of ketamine has been published since at least 1988.

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Patients can use nasal ketamine as needed. Schedules vary, everyone is different. It is short acting, but it does not stop working.

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However, the use of other adjuvants, such as glial modulators, in treatment of depression is essential to understand, and is now work in progress. The role of inflammation and glia in the pathogenesis of depression has been well established since 2000, and discussed here.

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Does ketamine also restore brain connections in patients with chronic pain? Chronic pain and major depression both lead to brain atrophy and memory loss. Both cause the same imbalance in glial cytokines. Both may respond to glial modulators, e.g. low dose naltrexone among others that have worked in some patients.

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“The original link between ketamine and relief of depression was made at the Connecticut Mental Health Center in New Haven by John Krystal, chair of the department of psychiatry at Yale, and Dennis Charney, now dean of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, who helped launch clinical trials of ketamine while at the National Institute of Mental Health,” reported by Yale  here.

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I hope to add new approaches to treatment of anxiety that has failed to respond to other interventions.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute

 for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Please understand that it is not legal for me to give medical advice without a consultation.

If you wish an appointment, please telephone my office or contact your local psychiatrist.

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

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Painkiller Efficacy in 2010 Less Than in 2000


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This research shows efficacy of analgesics decreasing since 2000.

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“The evidence for pharmacological treatment of neuropathic pain” publication is a good meta-analysis of the current state of evidence-based treatment of neuropathic pain.

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I have quoted extensively from the article as it is important.

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“Abstract: One hundred and seventy-four studies were included, representing a 66% increase in published randomized, placebo-controlled trials in the last 5 years. Painful poly-neuropathy (most often due to diabetes) was examined in 69 studies, postherpetic neuralgia in 23, while peripheral nerve injury, central pain, HIV neuropathy, and trigeminal neuralgia were less often studied. Tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors, the anticonvulsants gabapentin and pregabalin, and opioids are the drug classes for which there is the best evidence for a clinical relevant effect. Despite a 66% increase in published trials only a limited improvement of neuropathic pain treatment has been obtained. A large proportion of neuropathic pain patients are left with insufficient pain relief. This fact calls for other treatment options to target chronic neuropathic pain. Large-scale drug trials that aim to identify possible subgroups of patients who are likely to respond to specific drugs are needed to test the hypothesis that a mechanism-based classification may help improve treatment of the individual patients.”

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The black circles are recent circles, the light circles are from the past. Shift to the right means less effect.

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“Fig. 1. It shows the combined numbers needed to treat (NNT) values for various drug classes in all central and peripheral neuropathic pain conditions (not including trigeminal neuralgia). The figure illustrates the change from 2005 values in light grey to 2010 values in dark grey.  [emphasis mine]The circle sizes indicate the relative number of patients who received active treatment drugs in trials for which dichotomous data were available. Please note that the differences in study design and the patient populations preclude a direct comparison of NNT values across drug classes (see text). BTX-A: botulinum toxin type A; TCAs: tricyclic antidepressants; SNRIs: serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors; SSRIs: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor.”

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“Fig. 2. It shows the combined numbers needed to treat (NNT) values for different drug classes against specific disease etiologies. The symbol sizes indicate the relative number of patients who received active treatment drugs in the trials for which dichotomous data were available.”

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 A disease-based classification: fact or fiction?

“Since (1) there are no clear indications that specific diseases should be treated with specific treatments, (2) symptoms and signs overlap in various neuropathic pain conditions [6], and (3) currently available drugs act with unspecific neurodepressant actions rather on pivotal pathophysiological mechanisms, at present there is no good rationale for a treatment algorithm that discriminates between underlying etiologies [45]. Nevertheless, the vast majority of trials have been done in painful diabetic neuropathy and PHN and few, if any, in certain other conditions (e.g. Guillain–Barré syndrome and small-fiber neuropathy), and recommending a treatment for other conditions may seem to be an unjustified jump.”

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“Supplementary Figure 1L’Abbé plot showing pain relief for all drugs for different neuropathic pain conditions. Each point illustrates one comparison against placebo (for trials listed in Supplementary Table 1). The axes indicate the percentage of patients with at least 50% pain relief with active and placebo treatment.© 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain”

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Conclusion

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“Pharmacological treatment still represents the main option for treating chronic neuropathic pain. Our understanding of neuropathic pain-generating mechanisms has grown considerably within the last few decades, but unfortunately this research has not been matched by a similar improvement in treatment efficacy. We are still limited in our efforts in managing neuropathic pain by relying on treating the symptoms of pain rather than identifying the underlying disease mechanisms causing the pain. Although 69 new randomized controlled trials have been published in the past 5years compared with 105 published trials published in the preceding 39years, only a marginal improvement in the treatment of the patients with neuropathic pain has been achieved.”

© 2010 International Association for the Study of Pain

The study is part of the European project, funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative Joint Undertaking

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only,

and 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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Spine Fusions: No Better Than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Exercise


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Spine Fusions: no better than Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exercise

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This reportfrom the Academy of Neurology may help guide you in decision making: 

Deaths, Complications, Higher Costs Accompany Increase in Complex Spine Fusions Among Elderly.

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“Fusion is usually performed for degenerative disc disease for chronic low back pain, but a number of studies have shown that their outcomes are no better than a combination of graded exercise and cognitive behavioral therapy.”

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Tragically, dementia can result from extensive spine surgery. Many factors can contribute to that. If I were having spine surgery, I would look at the data of dementia following open heart surgery and the protective benefits of ketamine given prior to surgery. Ketamine can spare neuronal function. It is neuroprotective. I link to a publication on that in this post. The problem may be that so few physicians are willing to provide ketamine as they may lack information on its use, yet it is one of the safest medications we have, nontoxic and neuroprotective.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only,

and 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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Anti-inflammatory salsalate helps poorly controlled diabetics lower blood sugar


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Anti-inflammatory medication — salsalate, from the aspirin family —

helped poorly controlled Type 2 diabetics lower their blood sugar substantially.

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Fasting blood sugar dropped from 150 to 110

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This is a very interesting report of studies being conducted on fat to unlock the mystery of why it triggers inflammation that leads to heart disease and diabetes. Some startling conclusions are arising from these multi-center studies and the news release nicely summarizes them.

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Although the article does not quote the journal referenced, it does discuss the research being done at Albert Einstein College of Medicine as well as the NIH funded study at 21 medical centers around the country that are now recruiting Type 2 diabetics.

You might find out if a center nearest you is recruiting and be sure to discuss salsalate with your treating doctor before you consider trying it.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and

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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Thi

Opioids Create Pain via Molecular and Genetic Changes


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Chronic use of opioid pain medication

causes molecular and genetic changes that result in pain

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A brief update

American Pain Society May 2009 Symposia: Anti-analgesic Effects of Mu-opioids: Molecular and Genetic Mechanisms

The clinical benefits of opioid analgesics have not been fully realized due to substantial side effects, which include tolerance, dependence and opioid-induced hyperalgesia. Although the precise molecular mechanism of these phenomenon is not understood yet, it is generally thought to result from cellular excitatory effects of mu-opioids which contrast the major inhibitory effects.

Mark Hutchinson, PhD, discussed the new discovery that every clinically relevant class of opioid analgesics non-stereoselectively activates glial cells through TRL4 receptor. Activation of this receptor, primarily expressed by microglia, leads to the release of proinflammatory mediators that counter-regulate acute opioid analgesia.

How can opioid-induced glial activation oppose & augment different aspects of opioid action?

Opioid analgesia is opposed by opioid-induced spinal glial activation since increased neuronal excitability leads to elevated nociception. Increased brain opioid-induced glial activation also leads to increased neuronal excitability & within reward & dependence centers this is believed to increase opioid reward & dependence. Therefore analgesia is decreased & reward/dependence is increased.

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Counteracting hyperalgesia with naltrexone and dextromethorphan

In summary, Dr. Hutchinson describes the TRL4 receptor where opioids act to induce activation of microglia, releasing proinflammatory mediators that counteract analgesia and produce more pain.

Naltrexone, a mu opioid antagonist, has profound anti-inflammatory effects centrally on the microglia to produce analgesia.  This mechanism of action of low dose naltrexone is discussed here.

Dextromethorphan acts centrally on microglia by the same mechanism, producing analgesia.  Both naltrexone and dextromethorphan are classified as morphinans, morphine-like.·

More is less:  increasing the dose causes pain.

A steep road to climb, much less to understand.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and

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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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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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – Being Positive


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I don’t know how the Great Recession may be affecting your mood, but for those with chronic pain, it is often difficult to nurture and maintain a positive attitude.  At times when we need the most help, we may be most reluctant to appreciate the benefits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but that’s how we get help to reorder our thoughts in positive ways that are healing.

A Randomized Trial of a Cognitive-Bahavior Intervention

Compared to information giving and educational approaches, the risk for developing a long-term disability was lowered nine-fold for the cognitive-behavior intervention group. The cognitive-behavior group also demonstrated a significant decrease in physician and physical therapy use as compared with two groups receiving information, in which such use increased. These findings underscore the significance of early interventions that specifically aim to prevent chronic problems.

More recent research is reported by London’s syndication, The Independent, that tells us how much our attitude is harming ourselves.  Don’t forget, it harms everyone you love and constricts their lives too.  But the right frame of mind can lower your pain and other health risks.

PAIN

People showing dispositional optimism may be better able to cope with pain and need less medication. A study at Michigan State University on cancer patients shows that those who were more optimistic tended to report less severe pain. A study at the University of Alabama showed that patients who were optimistic used less medication for pain relief. “More optimistic adolescents are better able to match their medication use to their pain severity. Future research should examine how other psycho-social factors might influence pain medication use in adolescents and adults, and clinicians should take into account psychosocial factors when working with pain populations.”

CANCER

Women who are happy and optimistic may have a lower risk of developing breast cancer. The research also show that adverse life events, such as loss of a loved one or divorce , can increase the risk. Results from the study at Ben Gurion University in Israel show that exposure to more than one adverse life event was associated with a 60 per cent increased risk of disease, while happy and optimistic women were 25 per cent less likely to have the disease. “A general feeling of happiness and optimism seems to play a protective role,” say the researchers. “The relationship between happiness and health should be examined in future studies and possible relevant preventive initiatives should be developed,” say the researchers.

MORTALITY

A review of research into the association between positive wellbeing and mortality shows a signifciant link. The University College London analysis of 35 studies showed that positive psychological wellbeing was associated with an 18 per cent reduced mortality in healthy people and a 24 per cent lower risk in sick people. “Positive feelings – emotional well-being, positive mood, joy, happiness, vigour, energy – and life satisfaction, hopefulness, optimism, sense of humour, were associated with reduced mortality. Results suggest that positive psychological wellbeing has a favourable effect on survival in both healthy and diseased populations.

HEART DISEASE

The positive-minded have a 55 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease, according to the results of a study which followed 500 men aged 54 to 84 for 15 years. “Our results demonstrate a strong and consistent association between dispositional optimism and lower risk of cardiovascular mortality,” says the researchers from The Netherlands Institute of Mental Health, Delft. Just how low optimism may lead to cardiovascular death, is, say the authors, an intriguing, but unanswered question. One possible mechanism, they say, is that optimism is related to better coping behaviour. Another study at the University of Pittsburgh, and based on 200 women diagnosed with thickening of the arteries, showed that over a 15-year period, the disease progressed more slowly in those women classed as optimists. Other research has shown that optimists have a lower risk of rehospitalisation after coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

The article also covers the field of research as it applies to blood pressure, longevity, infections, even the common cold……..

Practice makes perfect.  Take time out to give yourself some love.  Doctors too.

And read Diana’s blog to see how the addition of 3 kittens have added so much to her family’s mood.  Even if you can’t have a pet, you can still enjoy a friend’s.

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

Medical Library


This page at the National Library of Medicine or Medical Librarymay be useful to you, allowing you to search for the explanation of Medical Conditions, Medications, Procedures, Tests, and general questions.

Other active links – click to open

Merck Manual

End of Life Care Resources

Tool Kit for Health Care Advanced PlanningAdvance Directives & Do Not Resuscitate Orders

Dementia

Caregiving a parent with dementia

Multiple Sclerosis

Caregiving a person with Multiple Sclerosis

Clinical Research Protocols at NIH

Clinical Trials at NIH

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

First Aid – CPR

First Aid for Seizures

Smoking Cessation

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Other  organizations include American College of Emergency Physicians, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, Family Caregiver Alliance, American Bar Association Commission on Law & Aging.

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

This service should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your healthcare provider.

Communicate promptly with your provider with any health related questions or concerns.

 

Vitamin D – A Steroid Hormone, Anti-inflammatory


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The Sunshine Vitamin Controversy

What should normal values  be for calcium homeostasis?

My attention was drawn to Vitamin D several years ago when a review appeared in the journal Neurology, published by the Academy of Neurology, that linked low levels of Vitamin D to Multiple Sclerosis.  The article was unusual for its length and the breadth of research cited over several decades.  More recently, a Johns Hopkins article published “the most conclusive evidence to date” that Low Vitamin D Levels Pose Large Threat to Health.

New publications on Vitamin D seem to appear every week with the focus on levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D, also written as 25(OH)D. Its half life in serum is ~ 10 days to 3 weeks.

The biologically active form 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D, written as 1,25(OH)D²,  is made in the kidneys and has a much shorter serum half-life of ~ 4-6 hours, thus making it less useful as a serum marker for measuring.

Sources & Metabolism: Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that’s absorbed in the small intestine from  foods such as egg yolks, fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified milk, margarine, and cereals.  Bile salts are required for absorption.  Sunlight stimulates the skin to synthesize vitamin D, but exposure of hands and face as little as 15 minutes may not be sufficient and it is not as effective for everyone.  It won’t work in winter months, it won’t work for the aged, for those who have pigmented skin, and it won’t work for those who cover their skin.

Vitamin D Metabolism - click to enlarge

Vitamin D Metabolism

The Controversy –  How Do We Determine Normal Values?

Surprisingly, in a well designed multicenter study of healthy young Hawaiians in their 20’s who were exposed to at least 29 hours of sun per week, 51% were found to have vitamin D deficiency using the usual cut off of 30 ng/ml for normal.  This study from 2007 found the mean concentration of 31.6 ng/ml, and the highest of 62 ng/ml.  It raises the question whether

“it seems prudent to use this value [60 ng/ml] as an upper limit when prescribing vitamin D supplementation,”

rather than the generally published normal range of 30 to 80 ng/ml or even 100 ng/ml quoted in some labs.  This study is important in discussing the controversial question of what normal values should be for calcium homeostasis and reviews several possible explanations for inadequate production of D3 including genetic differences.

They note the highest reported values in “Nebraska outdoor workers… were between 81 and 84 ng/ml” but the assay system differed compared to theirs and results in a higher value.   Reviewing this study that was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has allowed me just now to readjust my own patient practice.

Laboratory Testing:  results can differ from one laboratory to another.  My hospital sends specimens to ARUP for testing, whereas Quest has acknowledged errors in laboratory testing and problems with standardization as reported by the New York Times here.

Function:  It is important for absorption of calcium and phosphorous from the small intestine, for bone health, osteoporosis, risk of falls, certain cancers(colon, breast, prostate), and possibly 6 to 7 years of longevity.  Deficiency of vitamin D is associated with suboptimal health and possibly increased pain; it is linked to infections, gum disease, hypertension, diabetes, coronary disease, neurological diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease though it may not be causal. Its receptor is found all over the body including the brain.

I recommend this review by one of the best web resources at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Herbs & Botanicals.

They quote a reference showing it reduces postmenopausal weight gain and “In adults with impaired fasting blood glucose, giving calcium and vitamin D reduced increases in plasma glucose and insulin resistance….”

It is the only vitamin that is a steroid hormone, and my interest increased on learning that it functions as an anti-inflammatory.  But as I tested blood levels for 25(OH) vitamin D and parathyroid hormone (PTH), I discovered more than 90% of my patients had vitamin D deficiency and a few had hyperparathyroidism.  There are four parathyroid glands next to the thyroid, and for some reason doctors have rarely tested their hormone levels.

***Persons with hyperparathyroidism should NOT take calcium or vitamin D.

It may lead to kidney stones and bone pain:  stones, bones and groans.***

Evidence for Optimizing Vitamin D Concentrations

On the other hand, if vitamin D is low, there is some evidence that replacement with vitamin D3 so that blood levels are in the high normal range, may help pain.  That is, it may raise the pain threshold and possibly have other benefits for health and longevity. It is desirable to avoid toxic levels of D as it causes hypercalcemia with depression, drowsiness, weakness, headache, polydipsia,  bone loss, and metastatic calcifications of many organs, soft tissues and blood vessels.  The generally quoted range of normal for 25(OH) vitamin D is 30 to 80, that varies with the lab.

great-western-divide-wp1

Doesn’t that photo of the Great Western Divide make you want to get outside into the sun?

Estimation of optimal serum concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D for multiple health outcomes was reviewed by Heike Bischoff-Ferrari et al, in 2006,  though it has been superseded by much additional work since then.

To quote from their article:

This review summarizes the evidence for optimal serum  25(OH)D concentrations. The endpoint selection for this review was based the strongest evidence to date—ie, that from RCTs [randomized controlled trials], consistent evidence from prospective and cross-sectional epidemiologic studies, and strong mechanistic evidence or dose response relations.  BMD [bone mineral density], fracture prevention, lower-extremity function, falls, oral health, and colorectal cancer met these criteria. Weaker evidence exists of a beneficial effect of vitamin D on other diseases, including multiple sclerosis (15), tuberculosis (16), insulin resistance (17, 18), cancers other than colorectal (19 –22), osteoarthritis (23, 24), and hypertension (25–27), but these diseases are not considered here.

They did not review pain studies.  I would add that “weaker” evidence merely means that it must be confirmed by more studies, not that it excludes those conditions.  There is an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in the country, and the incidence is very high in pain clinics as reported in several studies.

A new multi-center epidemiology study  “Demographic Differences and Trends of Vitamin D Insufficiency in the US Population, 1988-2004”  by Ginde, et al, in 2006,  “demonstrate a marked decrease in serum 25(OH)D levels from the 1988-1994 to the 2001-2004 NHANES data collections.”  And like others before them, they point out:

“Current recommendations for vitamin D supplementation are inadequate to address the growing epidemic of vitamin D insufficiency.”

Summary:

Make sure your doctor checks both your 25(OH)Vitamin D and parathyroid hormone level (PTH) – not thyroid – to determine if you have hyperparathyroidism or if you have normal or low vitamin D.  That will determine if you need replacement or if you should stop using calcium and D as it will cause kidney stones and calcium deposits on your bones leading to pain.

If vitamin D levels are low it may result in increased physical pain and may cause or aggravate many medical conditions.

If PTH levels are high indicating hyperparathyroidism it will cause new painful conditions.

Intake does vary with the patient, the season, the age, but the recommended daily allowance may perhaps be double what it is now.  It is unclear when the federal government will adjust that dosage.   As always, your physician’s recommendation will be based upon blood levels of 25(OH)D and PTH.

Do not make changes in your dosage without careful evaluation.

Could this possibly be one of the most important areas of research this century?

The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and

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

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