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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Before we have an effective alternative,

CDC wants to take opioids away.

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

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

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

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

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

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Americans need to take action through the American Pain Society.

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I have written recently about the radical CDC opioid guidelines:

 

Tapering patients without sound and attainable alternatives

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Tampering with patient autonomy

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Failure to provide informed consent

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Avoidance of coercion

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Nonmeleficence – Do No Harm – Primum non nocere

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Treating patients like numbers not individualized

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Intellectual and academic dishonesty

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Anti-opioid zealots supported by zealous insurers? 

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Containment of drug costs, not pain

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Failure to assess risk vs benefit

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etc, etc – refer to prior posts

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

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not for email.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free website is

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CDC Will Create New Injuries & Suicide with Unprecedented Experiment in Sudden Opioid Changes – Prediction


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Tapering patients without sound and attainable alternatives

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Tampering with patient autonomy

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Failure to provide informed consent

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Avoidance of coercion

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Nonmeleficence – Do No Harm – Primum non nocere

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Treating patients like numbers not individualized

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Intellectual and academic dishonesty

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Anti-opioid zealots supported by zealous insurers? 

Containment of drug costs, not pain

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Failure to assess risk vs benefit

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Chronic pain has long term consequences including

brain atrophy and memory loss

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We have a duty to preserve life, and relieve suffering.

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Is it morally wrong to do nothing when almost 18,000 Americans died of prescription opioids in 2014?

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Is it morally right to radically chop the opioid dose of everyone in severe pain?

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Are we relying on drugs rather than coping skills and physical therapy?

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CDC will profoundly limit opioid doses to 100 mg/day morphine maximum or its equivalent for severe pain.  Is this safe? Ethical? See several previous posts on the dosage limits and CDC proposal.

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Michael E. Schatman, PhD, who edited “Ethical Issues in Chronic Pain Management,” lectures nationally on optimal treatment for chronic pain when ethical principals collide, has published “The role of the health insurance industry in perpetuating suboptimal pain management.” Medical ethics is not a business model of “cost containment and profitability.” His essay “addressed some of the insurance industry’s efforts to delegitimize chronic pain and its treatment as a whole.” He examined the industry’s “self-serving strategies, which include failure to reimburse services and certain medications irrespective of their evidence-bases for clinical efficacy and cost-efficiency; ‘carving out’ specific services from interdisciplinary treatment programs; and delaying and/or interrupting the provision of medically necessary treatment.”

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Many of the above ideas are taken from the course on ethics he taught May 2015 at the American Pain Society annual meeting.

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I have spent 15 years developing alternatives to failed opioid treatment for chronic intractable pain and writing about that on these pages since April 2009. When patients have failed all known treatments, low cost  alternatives to opioid medications become unaffordable when not covered by insurance – cost may be $300/month out-of-pocket rather than a $30 copay for opioids costing $17,000/month. How many can afford $300/month for the rest of their lives when they are on disability with severe chronic pain?

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When there are no options, opioids are the last resort.

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There is no argument opioids are often misused when there are better choices of treatment but resources are lacking, even more so in rural and under-served communities. And studies show lack of evidence of benefit with opioid treatment — but my patients would not be able to work or care for themselves if not on opioid therapy.

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Opioids cause pain by creating inflammation in the innate immune sytem (brain/spinal cord).

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There is no argument that opioids can cause central sensitization – that means higher doses cause worse pain which is misinterpreted as requiring more opioid when instead pain would improve with less. Opioids cause increasing numbers of deaths (almost 18,000 deaths in USA in 2014 from prescription opioids, NOT street drugs). Opioids may lead to addiction and diversion. Efficacy of many drugs is often compromised by some form of toxicity or need to add drugs to treat side effects, often denied by insurers.

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Likewise there is misuse of surgery, procedures, nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulators, pumps which can lead to paralysis, anxiety, depression, insomnia and death. How many billions are spent on spine surgeries done simply for pain that is not surgically treatable?

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Opioids may be treating anxiety, mental health problems or addictions, but they also serve an important function in relieving pain. They may be the only option many patients have. Opioid taper can uncover or cause PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, fear of withdrawal symptoms, inability to cope. Poorly managed or sudden opioid withdrawal can lead to severe hypertension, stroke, heart attack and/or intolerable side effects of substitute drugs.

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The disabled insurance system has shut down patient autonomy, by closing more than 1,000 interdisciplinary pain programs — now only 70. And are those truly interdisciplinary? or are they strictly procedure oriented with $50,000 pumps and spinal cord stimulators that have failed to work for my patients? Have they ever shown long lasting efficacy for 5 years? Have you seen the

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“Chronic pain a malefic force”

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“Pain kills”

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John Liebeskind, MD

Past President American Pain Society

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Tapering opioids in chronic pain is very different from tapering opioids in addicts and much more difficult than treating cancer pain.

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Unlike cancer pain, severe chronic intractable pain is endless, lifelong, day and night, often associated with depression, insomnia, anxiety, PTSD, hypertension, and disability caused by severe pain.

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Having taught cancer pain at an 800 bed cancer hospital, cancer pain may be easier to treat simply because most cancer pain is acute pain which responds better to opioids than chronic pain. Cancer is often treatable and pain resolves. And insurers are not battering doctors by denying medications for pain every couple months as they do for chronic pain. Stress! Denials nonstop! Paperwork instead of practice of medicine. Doctors cannot take the constant battering and leave.

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This unprecedented radical frightening cut in medication comes from the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

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The CDC excluded cancer patients from this new chopping block.

Will that come next?

Sequoia wildflower

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QUESTIONS FOR THE CDC & ANTI-OPIOIDISTS

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 Where is the data? What is the risk/benefit ratio for this radical cut in dosage? There is no evidence upon which to base their chosen dose.


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40 million Americans have severe pain, 17.6% of the adult population, not counting children with severe pain or adults with moderate pain.

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Will the CDC monitor the increase in auto accidents that occurs from untreated pain? People with incident pain have slowed reaction times due to pain. Despite normal strength and cognitive function, they may not be able to move muscles quickly due to untreated pain. They may not be able to move at all when severe pain clouds even the ability to think.

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Will CDC monitor risk of suicides from untreated pain? Columbia University recently published on suicide in only one pain syndrome, but there are many forms of severe pain, not just one.

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When will NIH and CDC fund research on medications besides opioids for treatment of pain?

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Will CDC monitor how many days of lost work, lost jobs from opioid withdrawal?

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Will CDC monitor how many new injuries occur from untreated pain? My patients may be perfectly strong, but cannot prevent falling if sudden pain prevents them from stabilizing their hips, legs, or spine.

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How suddenly do they demand this be implemented? Insurers have already been cutting opioids for months and allow 30 days on the last prescription. What then?

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Will CDC recommend that insurers provide medications for opioid withdrawal?

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Will CDC recommend that insurers allow payment of  medications such as Wellbutrin to replace dopamine for the depression malaise that occurs after opioid withdrawal that may last for one year or more?

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Will CDC recommend admission to hospital programs when patients are unable to suddenly drop opioid dose to the magical 100 mg without supervised inpatient care?

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Will CDC have nationwide training programs for doctors to teach how to deal with and study the sequellae of this unprecedented population experiment in suicide, new injuries, depression and hopelessness in patients and even physicians?

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Will CDC recommend anything for untreated pain after opioid reduction?

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Emily Dickinson

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Pain has an element of blank;

It cannot recollect

When it began, or if there were

A day when it was not.

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It has no future but itself,

Its infinite realms contain

It’s past, enlightened to perceive

New periods of pain.

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HamiltonFallsSequoiaHighSierraTrail

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice,

diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not for email.

~~~~~

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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Opioids and Deaths – If Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Can Do It, Why Can’t My Hospital OK Herbal & Compounded Medications?


 

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Gina Kolata reports in NYT

on the breaking study by two Princeton Economists    

 

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The key figure

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 7.53.11 PM
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“The two Princeton economics professors — Angus Deaton and his wife, Anne Case — who wrote the report that is the subject of my front-page article today about rising death rates for middle-aged white Americans, have no clear answer, only speculation. But the effect is stark. Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case calculate that if the death rate among middle-aged whites had continued to decline at the rate it fell between 1979 and 1998, half a million deaths would have been avoided over the years from 1999 through 2013. That, they note, is about the same number of deaths as those caused by AIDS through 2015.”

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“…The dismal picture for middle-aged whites makes Case and Deaton wonder how much of what they are seeing might be attributed to the explosive increase in prescription narcotics.”

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“What’s interesting, Dr. Case said, is that the people who report pain in middle age are the people who report difficulty in socializing, shopping, sitting for three hours, walking for two blocks.”

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“Dr. Deaton envisions poorly educated middle-aged white Americans who feel socially isolated are out of work, suffering from chronic pain and turning to narcotics or alcohol for relief, or taking their own lives. Starting in the 1990s, he said, there was a huge emphasis on controlling pain, with pain charts going up in every doctor’s office and a concomitant increase in prescription narcotics.”

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“We don’t know which came first, were the drugs pushed so much that people are hypersensitive to pain or does overprescription of the drugs make pain worse?” Dr. Case said.”

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“Dr. Deaton noted that blacks and Hispanics may have been protected to an extent. Some pharmacies in neighborhoods where blacks and Hispanics live do not even stock those drugs, and doctors have been less likely to prescribe them for these groups. Dr. Deaton said.”

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“A black person has to be in a lot more pain to get a prescription,” Dr. Case said. “That was thought to be horrible, but now it turns out to maybe have a silver lining.”…..

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Commenter: “D. Morris 1 hour ago
“unfortunately it’s easier to get a prescription of Oxycontin, or legally buy a handgun, than it is to get affordable mental health care in…”

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My Comments are too long, need days of edits, no time to do.


We have so many inexpensive generic medications in allopathic, Ayurvedic, and complementary medicine that are never taught.

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It is cost effective for Universities to limit their instruction to Anesthesia pain that teaches procedures. Thank goodness when they work. But is that all we teach? I fear the answer is yes. That was all that was available in Santa Monica in the early and mid 1990’s, after UCLA closed the Anesthesiology Interdisciplinary Pain Management Center in 1991 – others closed nationwide. It is cost effective to teach and do procedures.

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Epidurals

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 Bread and butter epidurals have never been compared to the same steroid and local anesthetic injected to the adjacent muscle without putting a needle into the spine. It could be equally as effective, able to be done in office, without surgery and x-ray scheduling, but then it would not be a good income generator. Selective nerve root blocks and facet blocks can be very helpful. But are epidurals just flooding the area with the same effect as a local muscle injection? What are we teaching before we get to procedures? How many patients can afford to take time off from work or school for repeated costly procedures?

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Glial modulators, compounded medications

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It would help if MD’s were trained (with CME credit) in the use of generic medications to include glial modulators that mitigate the need for high doses of opioids. There is often more relief than expensive procedures and hardware can provide – which may not work or may be short lasting and unaffordable for many, either due to cost or time away from work every few weeks.

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Physical Therapy

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Good training in Physical Therapy would be the very first step, not by PhD’s who teach fine academic theory, but by certified Orthopedic Physical Therapists with decades of bedside experience are needed to teach therapists who have shown time and again that the most basic P.T. is not being done in this country. Even people with purely neuropathic pain often develop mechanical changes, splinting to avoid pain. That must also be addressed.   

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I do not mean to imply that opioids are not useful. But there is more to pain relief than opioids and I suspect it may not be taught at all. Opioids rightfully remain on the WHO list of ten most essential medications. But when you use them – and believe me I am a wimp and would not be able to tolerate pain, but when you use opioids for years and years, how effective will they be when you really need them far more?

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Opioids are essential for many of my patients and when they fail, when all drugs fail including opioids, I know one thing is on their mind, and it grieves me that this country does not care enough to fund more than a pittance for pain research. This country must do better. Nobel prizes are abundant in La Jolla, but how about translational research in the clinics where we try to keep patients functioning and able to return to work without opioids.

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Drugs do not address muscle

Trigger Points

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Any doctor can do simple trigger point injections if they knew how to identify trigger points, the classic spots on common overused muscles that mimic disabling knee pain or headache or loss of grip strength, yes a strained, shortened brachioradialis – not neurological but do MD’s know?  P.T. specialists too, I hope they know trigger points, but they are not always communicating them to me because I find them and they can be simple.

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Could they add the identification and training of doctors to know meaningful differences in types of physical therapy. They all should be taught by an Orthopedic Physical Therapist like Bruce Inniss who trained decades ago at Rancho Los Amigos, a national treasure center back then innovating care for the most difficult paralyzed, handicapped and publishing it. Not the fancy PhD theory that the newer P.T. grads know – good but not best. Why don’t all physical therapists know the basics Bruce finds every day —- the same basics that were never once treated in the 30 years that my disabled patients were forced to return to. They come from the best university specialists in the country, and they all groan when I say “P.T.” until the next day after they have seen Bruce for their “intractable pain.” Thirty years of lost life. Expensive, joyless, hoping for the worst, praying for the day you will be old enough for Medicare so you could afford care because it has cost you your life savings. I am grateful for academic researchers for their brilliance, their ability to tolerate an academic environment. Best of all I love their shiny new cardiology toys and Dr. Topol translating medicine over wi-fi. Lets not leave behind the basics.

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It shocks me to see some of the basic things were overlooked or not even considered in people who come to me, often seen by the best five pain centers in the country. Of course I rely on those centers who may be able to help my patients. But I am shocked by the omission of simple basics: physical therapy being a key ingredient. That alone could save lives and save our taxpayers billions if the investment were contemplated.

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Last week, the well respected pain specialist Joseph Shurman, MD, at Scripps, said that young Rehabilitation Pain Specialists were rare. Few are going into Pain Management from an essential field. It’s a tough field, changing daily.

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What about other things?

 Compounded medication

Botanical, Ayurvedic, Herbals

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Hospital and university pharmacy committees must begin to open their minds to highly valued compounded and herbal drugs made by respected compounding pharmacists. We all know the high volume thieves who delivered contaminated IV’s, and had  the cheapest prices that brought a bad name, but why stop beneficial interstitial cystitis infusions ordered for decades by the senior specialist in the field? This attitude against compounding and against highly recognized herbal and Ayurvedic preparations must be improved. For example, Boswellia sold by Gliacin.com points to studies by the headache specialist in Scottsdale who trained at the Mayo Migraine Clinic. His site has publications showing 7 of the most intractable Indocin-responsive headache syndromes were improved with Gliacin (Boswellia)..

Most notable in the field is the website and research by Sloan Kettering Cancer Center on herbals and botanicals. You can hardly exclude half the country from your hospital if they found relief at last?  Surely you must teach and know the effects of patient use on FDA approved medications you are prescribing.

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What happens to that patient, whose intractable pain

responds only to compounded medicine,

when they have to be admitted to hospital or rehab

for weeks where compounded medications are forbidden?

Do we make you worse to get you better?

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Hospitals and universities are run by respected seniors, whip smart, who have no experience with many tools that are essential to many in our population. They are rightfully very protective of our beloved high technology centers and want no lawsuits from unapproved drugs not sold by big pharmaceutical companies. Not all of us live in such rarefied privileged worlds in our daily lives. We already have the tools and could use many of them at home without burdening resources. I would love to see physicians on hospital pharmacy committees work side by side with compounding pharmacists and be protected by law for using such inexpensive medications. Insurers have stopped coverage for compounded medications in the last four years, finishing the job in June with Tricare no longer paying. Medicare never has.

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So goes medicine in this country. We all lose. We are reaching for bright shiny things that dazzle me too. Don’t forget to keep the basics, the first thing I learned when teaching at UCLA Epilepsy Center. Often, the basics were not omitted. Case solved.

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It’s hard to know what to trust in so-called alternative treatment, but we must begin to trust if we have evaluated the credentials of best providers. Can we not trust even your patient’s heavily documented history? 

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We must do better. It is costing too many lives. The study I mention, above, just published, is tragic and predictable. Just ask any of us who see this daily. Ask your neighbors and family.

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Politicians could give us a law to protect hospitals from law suit if they allow compounded medications from highly respected compounding pharmacists who are owners of high quality small trusted pharmacies — not those big ones without supervision, where quarterly profit is the goal. We must keep these precious resources of medicine alive so that only the upper middle class can afford them. Does everything have to have overpriced studies and FDA approval with publications by many peers? We all know what that did to colchicine pills used for 100 years for gout, taken 3 times a day. Everyone knew they worked. But if you are the 1%, you invest a little and you can charge $7 each, $21 every single day for just one pill for life, instead of pennies a day.   


 

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INTRACTABLE PAIN IS NOT INTRACTABLE

IF YOU USE THE TOOLS YOU ALREADY HAVE

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It is past time we start teaching tools for pain that many of us daily encounter. Teach to doctors and physical therapists at the very least, but bring it into middle school and even younger.

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So many people are forced to put up with lack of medical care, lack of jobs, lack of income, and disability from working in factories owned by the 1% who control care, often through worker’s compensation.

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Now insurers require ICD10 codes before pharmacy can fill an antidepressant. That feels like ICD10 prison, and this comes at the same time as 70,000 new codes – merely an extra 50 hours a week. Why is the MD not the judge of medication after due deliberation of all the details, all the failed drugs. Practicing medicine without a license has become the standard of care since 1990, out of the doctor’s hands. Now that and insurance will not accept a prior authorization for a low dose of 25 mcg patch the patient has required for the last ten years for their lupus, Sjogren’s, RSD, and painful neuropathy. We have all felt its claws.

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computer system errors may appear typing letters out of sequence – please forgive, no time to edit and finding gremlins everywhere, possibly in the opinions so dangerously passionate. We can do better America. You don’t have to take it. Step up! Vote for the ones who care about your well being.

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 , Ayurvedic, Herbal “

Ketamine for Intractable Pain: 5-Year Study of Efficacy & Safety, A Retrospective


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Efficacy and safety of oral ketamine for the relief of intractable chronic pain: A retrospective 5-year study of 51 patients
European Journal of Pain, 11/25/2014

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Marchetti F, et al. – This work summarizes the efficiency, failures and adverse effects of oral administration of ketamine at home for intractable pain. Pain was reduced or abolished in two–thirds of patients under ketamine therapy; ketamine was effective for patients taking opioids and resulted in few adverse effects.

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Methods

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  • This 5–year retrospective study involved testing ketamine by intravenous in–hospital administration, then a conversion to an oral route, or oral treatment directly administered at home.

  • The daily intravenous dose was increased by steps of 0.5 mg/kg to attain an effective daily dose of 1.5–3.0 mg/kg.

  • Pain was evaluated on a numeric scale from 0 to 10, and evidence of adverse effects was collected every day.

  • The effective daily dose was delivered orally (three to four intakes).

  • If effective, ketamine was continued for 3 months.

  • Short infusions or direct oral treatment began with a 0.5–mg/kg dose, then the daily ketamine dose was increased in 15– to 20–mg increments.

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Results

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  • Among 55 cases (51 patients, neuropathic pain 60%), the mean effective oral dose was 2 mg/kg.

  • Ketamine was effective in 24 patients (44%, mean pain reduction 67±17%), partially effective in 20% (mean pain reduction 30±11%), with a mean opioid sparing of 63±32%, and failure in 22%.

  • Half of the patients experienced adverse effects, but only eight had to stop treatment.

  • For patients with opioid therapy, failure of ketamine was less frequent (7% vs. 36%; p<0.02), with fewer adverse effects (33% vs. 68%; p<0.01).

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    PUBLIC WARNING

    reprinted with permission of Demitri Papolos, MD
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    Ketamine is a controlled substance.
    Administered improperly, or without the guidance of a qualified doctor,
    Ketamine may cause injury or death.
    No attempt should be made to use Ketamine
    in the absence of counsel from a qualified doctor.

     

    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.

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Ketamine


Ketamine for persons with severe pain

cancerIn special circumstances, I may suggest a trial of low dose oral ketamine. It is formulated by a compounding pharmacist as an oral suspension. It is safe to use without significant adverse effects, though you may experience transient symptoms lasting 20 to 40 minutes after the first few doses. For most people, it may relieve pain when all other methods have failed, possibly including total pain relief with no side effects in patients who have then been able to discontinue all opioids.

Keep all your medicine, opioids and ketamine, in a lock box to prevent abuse by others. This is a Schedule III drug like Vicodin.

Achieving control of chronic pain requires a partnership

based upon trust and effort

Requirements: I will work closely with you on ketamine and ask you to keep a log of pain before each dose and 30 minutes after. In addition, for the first week I ask that you log blood pressure and heart rate before each dose and 30 minutes after. This requires that you see me in the office one week later. If you have any questions or problems, I ask that you call me the same day, whether it be weekend or holiday. If you are unable to keep these logs before and after the dose, and the appointment one week later, the trial will be discontinued. You have no authority to continue without my consent.

Blood Pressure: Usually no change occurs in blood pressure. Some have reported that ketamine lowers their blood pressure and they are lightheaded when they stand up. If your blood pressure drops or if you are lightheaded, be very cautious as that may lead to fainting and brief loss of consciousness. Anytime a person faints, that could result in potentially serious injury such as hip fracture, other fractures, bleeding or brain injury if you strike your head. Your blood pressure should be above 100 when standing.  Ketamine has been reported to increase blood pressure and pulse, but I have not found that to occur with these doses.

Side Effects: Ketamine has a very narrow therapeutic window for pain control. This means that once you find the dose that relieves pain, a very slight increase in dose may produce intolerable side effects. Unfortunately some patients reach a dose that produces side effects before they experience any pain relief.

Most patients have no side effects with the low doses used by this protocol, though some may have mild symptoms lasting up to 40 minutes. If you do, then try decreasing the dose a small amount.

It is possible but rare that you may experience severe, frightening hallucinations or may feel you are outside the body observing it do things, called a dissociative reaction.

These side effects are dose related and have been short lasting, usually no longer than 40 minutes.  The antidote is Ativan.

Steps to follow: Read all steps carefully before you begin

  • Take ketamine 30 minutes prior to your other pain medication
  • For the first dose, remain seated or lie down for 20 minutes after you take the dose to avoid risk of falling. Do not take the dose and walk around.
  • A few persons have had severe imbalance lasting 10 or 20 minutes. This has resolved after the first few doses in those persons. It may not happen to you, so test with caution. If it has not occurred at the first dose, it is unlikely to occur at all.
  • Follow the dosing guidelines in the log I give you and which I repeat in this next step:
    Begin with 0.25 mL and increase by increments of 0.25 mL every 6 hours or longer than 6 hours, until you have some pain relief. Do not increase that dose or dosing interval.

Example: begin 0.25 mL, then 0.5, next 0.75, 1.0, 1.25, 1.5, 1.75, 2.0

If you have had no effect on pain by 2.0 mL, schedule an appointment for further instructions.
If your pain decreases only 1 or 2 points, that is your dose.  It will NOT get better by increasing the dose.  Stop increasing.

  • If you have intolerable side effects, you may use 1 or 2 Ativan tablets immediately as an antidote, and every 30 minutes, up to 5 of them.
  • CAUTION: Be alert to the opioid-sparing effects of ketamine!

This means that if ketamine relieves your pain, you do not need to take the opioid as that would be an opioid overdose and may cause serious side effects.

Reduce or temporarily stop your opioid medication if pain is gone after using ketamine.

This is why you take ketamine 30 minutes before the opioid. Some people have been able to completely stop all opioid medication due to pain relief from ketamine alone.

  • CAUTION: Do not drive for 6 hours after a dose.

This is for the protection of you and others. You may not be aware of very subtle side effects.

  • You may take a dose every 6 hours, or longer than 6 hours. Less is more.

If ketamine loses its effect, stop use for 2 or 3 days, then resume. It can be a fickle drug.  That is why increasing the dose causes loss of effect.

Some take ketamine only before sleep. If you do that, use it 30 minutes before sleep in order to log its effect and take blood pressure/pulse before and after. Continue this initially until further changes are approved.

Ketamine was approved for use as an anesthetic by the FDA in 1970

It’s use for pain is “off label” as it was approved only in high doses for anesthesia. It has been used safely in babies. Unlike opioids, it does not depress breathing or bowel function, and usually does not depress cardiovascular function. Since the late 1980’s, numerous scientific articles have been published on its use as a third line choice for some pain conditions; there are few double blind control studies, one is listed below. If you search ketamine on various internet search engines you find it is abused by addicts just as other drugs are. You find medical articles when you search the literature using Google Scholar or PubMed in the National Library of Medicine. If you find a medical article with adverse effects, let me know. I have spoken to leading brain and psychiatric researchers who have verified there are no lasting side effects from its use.

Many publications on ketamine use multi-day infusions at much higher dosages than the oral dosages in my protocol. Drexel University has treated over 3,000 patients with infusions of 40 mg/hour for 5 days with no lasting adverse effects. Even higher doses than that are used for surgical anesthesia. Ketamine is a powerful tool for treating pain.

Medical Publications


You can click and download each reference in blue below

High dose ketamine improves neurological outcome after stroke in rats, Reeker et al, Canadian J Anesth 47:572-578, 2000

Ketamine, Pasero C, McCaffery M, Amer J Nursing, 105:60-64, 2005
An excellent review, more clinical, easier to read than some more technical papers

Ketamine in Chronic Pain Management: An Evidence Based Review, Hocking & Cousins, Anesth Analg, 97(6):1730-1739, 2003This nine page article is the best comprehensive review of ketamine’s use in almost every known pain condition including post stroke pain.  Easier to read; a catalogue of pain syndromes and references.

Ketamine Stops Aura in Familial Hemiplegic Migraine, Neurology, 55:139-141, 2000 Two mechanisms may account for this. First, ketamine can increase cerebral blood flow, which may counteract the marked hypoperfusion induced by cortical spreading depression, as observed in migraine with aura. Second, in experimental animals, ketamine accelerates the  restitution of neuronal function after hypoxia.

Ketamine oral use in 8 chronic pain patients, Canadian J. of Anesthesia, 2004


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The Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association library has many articles on RSD, CRPS and ketamine. Remember most of the articles are written for scientists and physicians.

From their library I particularly recommend the first article, below.  The last two are very technical but important new research.


Expectations of Pain: I Think, Therefore I Am, Jones-London M, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

For pain mechanisms, read
Beyond Neurons: Evidence that Immune and Glial Cells Contribute to Pathological Pain States, Watkins L and Maier SF, Physiology Review. 2003;82:981-1011.

For pain mechanisms, read
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS): Evidence of focal small-fiber axonal degeneration in complex regional pain syndrome-I (reflex sympathetic dystrophy),  Oaklander AL et al., Pain. 2006;120:235-243.

There is no link to the following double blind controlled research publication:

Mercadante S, Arcuri E, Tirelli W, Casuccio A. Analgesic effect of intravenous Ketamine in cancer patients on morphine therapy: a randomized, controlled, double-blind, crossover, double-dose study. J Pain Symptom Manage 2000;20:246-252. Mercadante et al compared intravenous infusions of Ketamine (0.25 and 0.5 mg/kg) with placebo in a double-blind, crossover study of 10 cancer patients with neuropathic pain.

Please note that the free Adobe Acrobat Reader is needed to read some references.

You can download the free reader now.

~~~~~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. ~~~~~

Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management! Thanks for stopping by.


NancySajbenMDSeven years since I started this blog April 2009. It is very exciting to have this resource as a way to structure the many research publications and ideas I come across in Pain Management, Neurology, Integrative Medicine, Neuroimmunology and, yes, politics of medicine. I only wish I had had this tool decades ago so that I didn’t have to recreate the ones I’ve already reviewed and forgotten in the last 41 years, long before MRI scans and decades before computers in daily medicine. Now we all risk carpal tunnel from repetitive injury.

Chronic pain is often much more difficult to treat than cancer pain. It is tragic that < 1% of NIH budget goes for pain research, 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. Persons of all ages that I see tend to be more debilitated, often with anywhere from 3 to 14 different identifiable pain syndromes.

Many, including physicians, mistake pain as a symptom, failing to understand the reorganization that has occurred in the central nervous system due to neuro-plasticity; and they overlook the associated co-morbidity causing insomnia, weight gain due to medication or inactivity, depression, anxiety, spiritual and financial burdens. The lives of families and friends are diminished along with the person who has pain.

In the future, as time permits, I’ll be adding publications and articles to the site and occasionally posting with a frequency yet to be determined, hopefully twice a month.

Goals:

  • This website is dedicated to providing educational resources to patients and healthcare professionals regarding the current understanding of pain medicine, an interdisciplinary field
  • To discuss evidence-based information to improve the lives of patients who choose to use these therapies under the direction of informed physicians
  • To distinguish between harmful treatments, beneficial treatments, and treatments that can be safely integrated with conventional treatment
  • To encourage communication between patients, families and providers
  • To educate both patients and health care providers who need a more comprehensive knowledge base with current and accurate information
  • To promote ongoing professional growth through networking in a setting where treatments can be examined together to enhance lives

Please bear in mind, no information in this blog is intended to diagnose or treat any condition.

The opinions expressed here are my own, and are subject to change as new research becomes available.

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Join me on this journey……


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