Opioid taper – please comment. Your story matters


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Opioids

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Americans use 80% of prescription opioids in the world.

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If you have voluntarily tapered off opioids, please comment

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In 1991, America was not even among the top 10% prescribing opioids for cancer pain. Now look where opioid induced pain has led the way medicine is practiced. We have created disability like throwing gasoline on fire. It is costing lives.

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Patients with intractable pain who have failed all  procedures, nerve blocks, injections and opioids, why are they still taking them if pain is still severe, if they are not able to function? They do worse than nothing.

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Opioids create pain: They trigger the brain to produce pro-inflammatory cytokines that cause pain. It is drowning in a universe of delusion to ignore the data. Clinging to fear.

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Data: Here’s an old Stanford study from 2005 Journal of Pain:

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Opioid Tolerance and Hyperalgesia in Chronic Pain Patients After One Month of Oral Morphine Therapy: A Preliminary Prospective Study

 

Abstract

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There is accumulating evidence that opioid therapy might not only be associated with the development of tolerance but also with an increased sensitivity to pain, a condition referred to as opioid-induced hyperalgesia (OIH). However, there are no prospective studies documenting the development of opioid tolerance or OIH in patients with chronic pain. This preliminary study in 6 patients with chronic low back pain prospectively evaluated the development of tolerance and OIH. Patients were assessed before and 1 month after initiating oral morphine therapy. The cold pressor test and experimental heat pain were used to measure pain sensitivity before and during a target-controlled infusion with the short-acting μ opioid agonist remifentanil. In the cold pressor test, all patients became hyperalgesic as well as tolerant after 1 month of oral morphine therapy. In a model of heat pain, patients exhibited no hyperalgesia, although tolerance could not be evaluated. These results provide the first prospective evidence for the development of analgesic tolerance and OIH by using experimental pain in patients with chronic back pain [my emphasis]. This study also validated methodology for prospectively studying these phenomena in larger populations of pain patients.

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Perspective

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Experimental evidence suggests that opioid tolerance and opioid-induced hyperalgesia might limit the clinical utility of opioids in controlling chronic pain. This study validates a pharmacologic approach to study these phenomena prospectively in chronic pain patients and suggests that both conditions do occur within 1 month of initiating opioid therapy.

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Of course when you stop the opioid, the system rebounds like wild, stronger pain. It’s one thing to publish this important study, but how to offer better relief than the adjuvants that failed?

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How has opioid’s overwhelming inflammatory imbalance in brain affected the ability to recover? ever. The brain is maxed out. Is it permanent? How long does this last? There are those who think, I won’t taper off, I’ll wait till the very last minute, do rapid detox and expect instant change. Do not allow brain recovery. Opioids are still in system for weeks after stopped.

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People more likely to remain on disability if opioids are even once started. Doctors then prescribe tramadol, Nucynta, buprenorphine in patches or film for sublingual use. Those are still opioids.

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And one week ago, two more opioids approved. They make billions, guaranteed lifelong. Why should pharma try something that will actually relieve pain without causing inflammation centrally in brain?

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The problem is that patients who taper off have been offered nothing adequate to replace the opioid.

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The question is, if FDA refuses to approve any more opioids, will pharma do anything to relieve pain?

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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.

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

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Opioid Guidelines California


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Opioid Guidelines for Chronic Pain

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80 mg Morphine Equivalent in California

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Maximum

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That’s about 50 mg Oxycodone

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Change is inevitable. It is about deaths from opioids, addiction and misuse, not about pain control. It is a done deal. Acceptance is required. CDC will set 90 mg morphine equivalence maximum nationwide soon. There is no legal alternative. A wake up call.

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Let’s now make the best of every best tool we have. This is going to be a very tough year. We can get through this together.

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With 18,000 plus deaths from opioid misuse, that is equivalent to a jumbojet crashing every 10 days and killing every passenger.

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I have advised my patients of the maximum 80 mg morphine equivalent that is required in California. The CDC will soon limit maximum dose to 90 mg morphine equivalent nationwide. This is a done deal. We must all accept it, and adjust ourselves to all the benefits of a rational approach to pain management that may have been overlooked many years since your started treatment for chronic pain and came to rely on the easy things like pills rather than changing our behavior – painful as it is for me and all of us.

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Housecleaning: Reassess opioid consent, opioid rules, cognitive behavioral therapy to teach coping skills, physical therapy for the mechanics, and other treatment as required. It does not count if you went through these steps 10 years ago or 5 years ago. This is now. Reassess thoroughly,  to see if we can correct or improve whatever we can.

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The good news is that everything will be reassessed and updated in order to maximize everything that can be done to help your pain. You may feel the brain feels clear on lower doses and you may even have less pain as long as you, together with your doctor, can work out a plan for your best needs.

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And no matter if you are thin, fat or just the right weight, the foods you eat will determine your body’s inflammatory response.

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This will be nationwide in weeks. There is no alternative. We can do this together.

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Don’t forget injured veterans are being completely taken off opioids to get them active and back to exercise. And research from 25 years ago showed 90 year old seniors can strengthen muscles with exercise. If the rest of the world gets by without opioids, so can we.

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Finally, it is very possible to get better pain control using compounded medications once you taper completely off opioids.

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Case:

One of my patients with neuropathy had complete loss of sensation and intense neuropathic pain below wrists and ankles despite high dose methadone – methadone helped better than all other opioids. There was no dose that brought his pain down to moderate. Since pain was severe on any dose of any opioid, I am not sure why they are prescribed at all – brain fog from severe pain, poor sleep, opioids. We may delude ourselves that we are helping.

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He had complete remission using oxytocin, a hormone the body makes. Oxytocin was affordable as long as his insurance paid for it. This allowed him to discontinue all opioid and he came alive again, depression and brain fog completely resolved when pain resolved 100%. He was able to rejoin life for the first time since 1991. Tragically his medicare disability does not cover compounded medications – no insurer does. He was not able to afford the oxytocin (hormone) and had to resume methadone though it gives poor pain control – it is better than other opioids for his pain.

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Not everyone responds to alternatives but they can be tried. I have spent the last 15 years applying new science to the understanding of mechanisms of old drugs, FDA approved decades ago for other purposes. We need to repurpose old safe drugs – invest in research to determine if they modulate pro-inflammatory cytokines. Drug discovery decades ago revealed basic mechanisms that still exist. Now, let’s find out if many safe existing medications work on the new science of the brain: the innate immune system.

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Opioids create pain. They create opioid induced hyperalgesia.

They stimulate pro-inflammatory cytokines in brain and spinal cord (CNS) that create pain.

My focus is on research and medications that modulate the cytokines and restore balance.

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Investment in research has not accompanied the radical cut in opioids. Work for change. Do not allow this to color your mood. Be strong. Get help. We can do this.

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Correction 2-23-16: California Guidelines (pdf) are not law. They are dead serious threats.

page 14: going over 80 mg morphine equivalent is yellow flag warning

 And here

page 3:

Clinicians should conduct semiannual attempts to wean patients whose dose has been 80 mg/day MED or higher for at least six months to lower than 80 mg/day MED.

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not for email.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free educational website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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


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Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in

Mortality Rates of Young Whites

New York Times

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Your pain. Your lives. Their profit.

A thorny problem.

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

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

Chronic severe pain affects forty million Americans.

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

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

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FACT:

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

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

  • 100 million with chronic pain.

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

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

  • Suicide increases with untreated pain

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

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

  • Insurance is unaffordable or not purchased by many young adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Lyrica

    • Horizant

    • Gralise

    • Cymbalta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opioids kill – or is it untreated pain?

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Pain kills, a maleficent force.

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

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

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

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

reduce pain without medication?

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

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

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

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

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

large coke 140 calories, walk off 30 minutes.

Foods can be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.

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Obesity is pro-inflammatory.

So is lack of sleep.

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

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Yes, pain is in your mind.

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

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

Work on it! Constantly.

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

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

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

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Isn’t this all un-American?

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

Taxpayers end up paying for ignorance and disability.

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

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

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

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

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Please send in your stories. You are not alone.

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

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Clematis Blue.

 The New York Times article further says:

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

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

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

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

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

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice,

diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not email for personal questions.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free website is

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Opioid Restrictions for Safe Prescribing – CDC Solicits Comments on Guidelines


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pain management is not just opioid management.

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

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

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

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not for email.

~~~~~

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

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Insurers Refusing to Cover Pain Medication – Morphine 100 mg per Day Maximum – Opioid Wake up Call – New Nationwide Standard? DEA Mandate


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The FDA mandated 22 manufacturers of long acting opioids

to fund a program on opioid prescribing.

FDA dictated the content.

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I attended the SCOPE of PAIN program Friday November 6, from 8 to 12:30, taught by an Addictionologist from Portland with our local Southern California DEA. Continuing education credit was given by Boston University. The first grant recipient was in 2012.  

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My take:

I think we will rapidly see a 100 mg per day

maximum morphine equivalent allowed

Could I be interpreting this wrong?

Insurers simply deny paying for high doses. They have begun already.

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I am exhausted from ICD10 diagnosis coding – complex patients !!! – that has taken away any possibility I could leave my desk until 4 AM for the last four weeks, in midst of moving office to much better place, and midst the only two computer crashes I have ever had in my pursuit of efficient tech, plus dental fracture, so much more….perfect storm. The paragraphs could be edited and rearranged, so they would be in sequence but they’re not.

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I hope others will give me their take on this. It has been getting worse since almost all university interdisciplinary pain clinics were closed in 1991. Insurers, i.e. managed care clerks, are practicing medicine mandates set forth by anonymous committees looking at spreadsheets not at our complex care. Insurers could save many billions if they invested a few billions in education. Insurers wrote Obamacare. They could write it better. Congress wants all of us to do our part. Surely business too?

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Based on this series of opioid conferences, my guess is their first step is to chop opioid prescribing down to 100 mg morphine equivalents. But what about untreated pain at the heart of the epidemic of suicide? I see it among all classes of people, because we’ve focused on opioids too long to the exclusion of research and exclusion of a whole world of medications now generic, no longer on patent therefore inexpensive, FDA approved medications. The biggest shock: Valuable compounded medications are no longer on formularies of insurers! Our most affordable FDA approved medicines are no longer covered by insurance.

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Where is the data that we must limit the dose to 100 mg per day morphine equivalent?

Is it too much pain medicine or is it untreated pain?

Is it lack of medical care?

or is it lack of affordable medical care?

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My comments arise from grave concern the Insurers and FDA are overlooking the needs of my pain patients. I must speak up now despite need to recover in the next few days.

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Where is the concern for the pain patient

in this multimillion dollar pharmaceutical-company-funded opioid conference?

FDA mandated that manufacturers of extended release opioids fund the conferences.

Where are the millions that need to be spent on

rational interdisciplinary pain management,

rather than just opioid management?

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We need more than just studies of suicides and opioid changes.

We need hospitals and insurance systems

to recognize legitimate therapies that work for real people.

Would the epidemic of addiction

go down if people could get treatment for their pain?

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I posted this week on a new study, an epidemic of suicide in Caucasian middle aged Americans. The results were a shock to Case and Deacon, the Princeton Economists who did the research that merited two articles in the New York Times.

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Epidemic of suicide

deaths as high as in the AIDS epidemic,

driven by pain, disability, loss of job, drug abuse, other.

By too many opioids or by untreated pain?

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That is why, a few days ago I posted on that epic study by Princeton economists: the suicides in middle aged Caucasians now comparable to deaths during the AIDS epidemic. I posted how that can change. In that article and for years with this blog, I post about medications that work more effectively than opioids, i.e. glial modulators, and the need for compounded and herbal medications from approved highly reputable small local pharmacies need to be covered by insurers and allowed on hospital formularies.

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Epidemic of suicide – could it be due to lack of pain treatment

not due to an epidemic of opioids?

Is it too much pain medicine or is it untreated pain?

Is it lack of medical care?

Or is it lack of affordable medical care?

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The key figure from the Case-Deaton study on epidemic of suicides in white middle-aged Americans –  bigger than deaths at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The question is why?

Andrew Gelman, statistician at Columbia University and writer for the Washington Post, argues in his blog against the rate being higher at all. His conclusion: “…death rates among middle-aged non-Hispanic whites in the U.S. slightly increased, even while corresponding death rates in other countries declined by about 30%.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 7.53.11 PM

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Regardless of the argument, untreated pain is a big problem. It causes suffering and joblessness, and can lead to addiction and suicide.

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Does it matter which side of the argument is right?

Pain management is being taught in only 3% of American medical schools.

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births.

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Where is the data that we must limit the dose to 100 mg per day morphine equivalent?

Is it too much pain medicine or is it untreated pain?

Is it lack of medical care?

Or is it lack of affordable medical care?

Insurers are not willing to pay for larger doses of opioids

and deny prior authorization.

Does this lead to suicide?

Money is the root of some of this.

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The cure for suicide is not just to take a sword and slice off the top doses of morphine, and treat everyone with the same low doses, whether you have herniated discs or sprained ankle or RSD.  Sprained ankles may be already getting too much.

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Why blame it all on over-prescribing? How about suicide due to under-prescribing, or suicide from not treating pain at all because healthcare insurance and unemployment don’t mix?   

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Are they blaming high doses as cause of suicide? How about when high dose opioids fail, when all drugs fail, we see no new drugs on the horizon for pain control. That does not fill those patients with hope.

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Of course it is important to acknowledge, as the New York Time health section has followed that epidemic research with How Doctors Helped Drive the Addiction Crisis.

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Where is the data that we must limit the dose to 100 mg per day morphine equivalent?

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Someone must advocate for change. It’s not just pills, it’s not just opioids.

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We are all at risk from disabling pain, loss of jobs and suicide

—yes, doctors too become disabled—

because of substandard education in pain management in this country

focused almost universally

on opioid treatment of pain.

..

Lack of funding killed the university interdisciplinary pain management centers in 1991

 

AND we need access to compounded drugs, herbs & supplements in our hospitals.

If Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center can do it, why can’t my hospital?  

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Expect 100 mg oral morphine or equivalent maximum dose per day to rapidly become the standard nationwide. Insurers are refusing to cover the cost of higher doses. Even if you can afford $17,000 out of pocket each month for pain relief, your doctor will be shouldering liability if outside these rapidly evolving guidelines. Insurers rule – and they deny coverage of inexpensive compounded drugs that work better than opioids for my patients who have failed all known treatment. That’s why we need better education and more clinically focused research.

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Those who blame Obamacare for high insurance costs and business-wide practices need look no further than the price of medications, especially opioids.

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It seems everyone breezes over where Washington State came up with a maximum of 100 mg morphine (or equivalent) as a maximum daily dose of opioid. 

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This 100 mg maximum daily morphine dose became law in Washington State many years ago, initially for Workers Compensation, and will soon be adopted by Oregon.

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Of course we are all concerned about the shocking rise in deaths from prescription opioids that are occurring since opioids began to be used after Russell Portnoy published its use for chronic pain in 1991. We just didn’t know that they work for cancer pain that is usually acute pain, not for what is now tens of millions with chronic pain who are on opioids

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But opioids are still necessary for some. Those of my patients who take opioids will have a very hard time with the 100 mg morphine (or equivalent) maximum daily guideline. Informed consent is out the window. We all recognize the practice of medicine has been done by insurance companies since the late 1980’s when managed care took over. This will not change. Now insurers require the ICD10 diagnosis code before they will allow the pharmacist to refill an antidepressant that the patient has been taking for one year with much needed relief. This will give them more tools to deny paying.

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It would appear that those who govern our medication use (insurers and DEA) — and who deny coverage of even more useful, inexpensive medication –  feel that 100 mg morphine equivalent is the maximum dose that should be prescribed.   

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100 mg oral morphine is equivalent to:

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66 mg Oxycodone

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25 mg/hr Fentanyl Patch

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25 mg hydromophone (Dilaudid)

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120 mg hydrocodone (12 of the Vicodin, Norco, Lorcet 10 mg tablets)

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30 mg Oxymorphone (Opana) use not recommended

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Morphine               to                Methadone      

30-90 mg                                   One fourth the morphine dose

90-300 mg                                 One eighth (200 mg/day morphine = 25 mg methadone)

300-500 mg                               One twelfth the morphine dose

>500 mg                                    One twentieth the morphine dose

 ~

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Methadone conversion is far more complex than this guideline from University of Michigan

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Only 3% of medical schools teach pain management. That ignorance is costing us trillions in insurance and pharmaceutical fees, and right now the latter two are making war on each other by taking it out on you, the patient who is getting substandard care. They’re taking care of their financial needs that show us the symptoms of disease, pain, suffering, disability, loss of job, and the just published this week, the epidemic of suicide. We need to treat the cause, not just the symptoms. Medical education, injury prevention and treatment needs to be taught starting K-12. The cost would pay for itself but the Insurance Industry needs to pay for it there and in University Medical Schools because Congress will not pay for it. It would be a cost saving investment that would pay itself off in care for seniors when grandchildren have to spot mom and dad in the 24 hour, extended family care that strains budgets. We cannot afford not to teach trigger point basics to each kid and each physical therapist and MD. That alone could save tons of opioids and monthly visits for what never works for muscle strain that no one has found.

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I’m tired of seeing how degraded it has become. To fail to treat the cause of disability and suffering is far more in our hands now, it could happen if people were taught basics instead of opioids, K through medical school. Are we teaching only opioids? yes, it seems so. I am advocating for everything I have written about in this blog since 2009. Glial modulators, mechanical approaches, but compounded medications, in particular, are sadly becoming unaffordable because insurers have stopped coverage for them. Then we all lose one of the most important tools, the only tool, that my patients and millions of others have in treating intractable pain or treatment resistant Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Depression. Compounded medications often work after everything else has failed. The lives of my patients have usually either returned back to normal or  improved in ability to function. That has never been shown with opioids for chronic pain.

 

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I’m too exhausted to be in a position to edit what I’ve written just now, or write adequately. I am just furious at the direction our country for decades has pushed into opioid treatment rather than pain management. This has reached peak brewing since the DEA conference yesterday, dictated by the FDA funded by opioid manufacturers.

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It is a hope that Insurers could fund an analysis of the billions that could be saved and suicides prevented if they funded pain management. What is there to live for than a life free of pain and disability?

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The analysis could show how much is saved when training begins with the young, how to prevent and treat injury. How helpful a child can be to aging grandparents or parents when illness strikes the family. We always turn to family first, as we should. Why is something of the field of pain management not taught in K-12?

 

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The FDA just authorized two opioids for children this last week. I have a vague memory one was oxycontin in children. I do not argue against opioids, I have given opioids to tiny children when I worked in hospice. Children have crippling arthritis too and other medical needs for opioids.

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I am not arguing against opioids. I am saying that what is taught is zero pain management. The focus on drugs is completely unbalanced.

 

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If Sloan Kettering can teach herbal and supplementary medicine to cancer patients, why not begin the study of herbal medicine at K-12 since a lot of parents are taking it instead of using common sense such as exercise, weight loss, family time, relaxation. And herbal and supplementary medicine is what these young ones will teach their children when they grow up. Hopefully prevent some of the toxicity from swallowing all sorts of useless and dangerous things on the shelves.

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Rational health care must begin young in the schools. .

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Opiates Create Pain – A New Pathway Mediated by Microglia


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Though morphine and other opiates are the gold standard for producing analgesia, paradoxically they may create pain.

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The mechanism, a microglia-to-neuron pathway in the spinal cord, has now been discovered by Ferrini et al. It was published in the on-line edition of Nature Neuroscience

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“Morphine hyperalgesia gated through microglia-mediated

disruption of neuronal Cl homeostasis.”

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Their research was reviewed January 8 in Medical News Today, exerpted below:

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….”Our research identifies a molecular pathway by which morphine can increase pain, and suggests potential new ways to make morphine effective for more patients,” says senior author Dr. Yves De Koninck, Professor at Université Laval in Quebec City. The team included researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec, the US and Italy.

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New pathway in pain management

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The research not only identifies a target pathway to suppress morphine-induced pain but teases apart the pain hypersensitivity caused by morphine from tolerance to morphine, two phenomena previously considered to be caused by the same mechanisms.

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“When morphine doesn’t reduce pain adequately the tendency is to increase the dosage. If a higher dosage produces pain relief, this is the classic picture of morphine tolerance, which is very well known. But sometimes increasing the morphine can, paradoxically, makes the pain worse,” explains co-author Dr. Michael Salter. Dr. Salter is Senior Scientist and Head of Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids, Professor of Physiology at University of Toronto, and Canada Research Chair in Neuroplasticity and Pain.

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“Pain experts have thought tolerance and hypersensitivity (or hyperalgesia) are simply different reflections of the same response,” says Dr. De Koninck, “but we discovered that cellular and signalling processes for morphine tolerance are very different from those of morphine-induced pain.”

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Dr. Salter adds, “We identified specialized cells – known as microglia – in the spinal cord as the culprit behind morphine-induced pain hypersensitivity. When morphine acts on certain receptors in microglia, it triggers the cascade of events that ultimately increase, rather than decrease, activity of the pain-transmitting nerve cells.”

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The researchers also identified the molecule responsible for this side effect of morphine. “It’s a protein called KCC2, which regulates the transport of chloride ions and the proper control of sensory signals to the brain,” explains Dr. De Koninck. “Morphine inhibits the activity of this protein, causing abnormal pain perception. By restoring normal KCC2 activity we could potentially prevent pain hypersensitivity.” Dr. De Koninck and researchers at Université Laval are testing new molecules capable of preserving KCC2 functions and thus preventing hyperalgesia.

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The KCC2 pathway appears to apply to short-term as well as to long-term morphine administration, says Dr. De Koninck. “Thus, we have the foundation for new strategies to improve the treatment of post-operative as well as chronic pain.”

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Dr. Salter adds, “Our discovery could have a major impact on individuals with various types of intractable pain, such as that associated with cancer or nerve damage, who have stopped morphine or other opiate medications because of pain hypersensitivity.”

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Cost of pain

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Pain has been labelled the silent health crisis, afflicting tens of millions of people worldwide. Pain has a profound negative effect on the quality of human life. Pain affects nearly all aspects of human existence, with untreated or under-treated pain being the most common cause of disability. The Canadian Pain Society estimates that chronic pain affects at least one in five Canadians and costs Canada $55-60 billion per year, including health care expenses and lost productivity.

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“People with incapacitating pain may be left with no alternatives when our most powerful medications intensify their suffering,” says Dr. De Koninck, who is also Director of Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience at Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec.

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Dr. Salter adds, “Pain interferes with many aspects of an individual’s life. Too often, patients with chronic pain feel abandoned and stigmatized. Among the many burdens on individuals and their families, chronic pain is linked to increased risk of suicide. The burden of chronic pain affects children and teens as well as adults.” These risks affect individuals with many types of pain, ranging from migraine and carpel-tunnel syndrome to cancer, AIDS, diabetes, traumatic injuries, Parkinson’s disease and dozens of other conditions.”

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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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RSD/CRPS, Multiple Sclerosis, LDN & Ketamine


………

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It is rare for me to see a patient who is not complex.

They have failed so many treatments for so many years before they call.

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This is the report of a lovely woman in her early 70’s with progressive Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years and paraplegia that has forced her to use an electric scooter the last 5 years, and power wheelchair the last 2o years. Because of total paralysis of the right lower limb, she fell and shattered her femur, the thigh bone, in August 2009. Tragically, and all too often, the surgeon failed to diagnose Complex Regional Pain Syndrome [CRPS], even failed to visit her in the hospital. CRPS increased the fatigue she had already had from Multiple Sclerosis.

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Thankfully a physical therapist suggested the diagnosis.

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Why is pain management not a required subject for physicians?

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I have written elsewhere that the American Pain Society discovered that our National Institute of Health, NIH, devotes less than half of 1% of their research dollar to pain research. Of 28 NIH institutes, none for pain, three for addiction. This will not change soon. The only hope is that RSDSA.org will succeed in collaborating with all pain organizations, groups with dystonia, chronic fatigue in order to give a voice and research dollar to advances.

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Before seeing me in September, she had 11 sympathetic blocks with no benefit.

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Does it make you wonder why 11 were done?

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How does insurance authorize 11 when 10 had no benefit? I have just learned that a doctor must indicate at least 50% relief before another will be authorized. That explains it.

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Then she was given opioids including tramadal and Butrans patch which rendered her a “zombie,” sedated, poor memory, unable to function. She tried 4 or 5 treatments of Calmare with no benefit but was advised she needed a clear neural pathway for it to work. That was not possible due to the Multiple Sclerosis.
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Lyrica caused severe edema. Gabapentin 1400 mg/day caused weight gain, increased her appetite  more than usual, but she remained on it. She craves sweets more than usual, at times uncontrollably. Perhaps it can be slowly tapered now. Advil 600 mg gave some benefit but caused ulcers that required Nexium.

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Since her initial visit a few weeks ago, she became 60% better during her two week stay.

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I will highlight only two of the new medications started.

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It may also be said that opioids are not the answer.

Opioids may perpetuate pain.
They may produce paradoxical pain or opioid induced hyperalgesia or windup.

They may block the effect of ketamine and other adjuvants that would otherwise lower pain.

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Of importance is that she was not able to tolerate clothing on her right lower limb for three years, not even a sheet, and now she is able to sleep through the night without pain for the first time in three years and able to wear a skirt. This allows her to go out with family to restaurants and even to enjoy shopping with her daughter. Her dose of ketamine is very small relative to most of my patients and she uses it only once or twice a day since most of the new medications have brought her pain down.

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At her first visit one month ago, she rated pain from 6 to 8 on a scale of 10, average 7/10. Now 60% better, ranging from zero to 7, average 4. Yes zero pain, sleeping through the night without pain and waking without pain. She had not been able to tolerate touch to the right thigh or foot and would pull her skirt above the thigh, removing her shoe.

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Now she indicates pain continues to improve.

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Of interest, despite an abundance of concern that low dose naltrexone [LDN] may flare her Multiple Sclerosis, we were easily able to increase the dose to triple what is usually called “LDN.” This did not flare her condition and may be one of the most effective medications she is taking for pain.

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What is LDN?

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The FDA has sanctioned its use in the USA only in doses of 50 to 400 mg for addiction to opioids and alcohol.

.

Low dose naltrexone [LDN] is a fascinating medication. It has been used in low dose in persons with Multiple Sclerosis since 1985 when a Harvard trained neurologist in New York City, Dr. Bihari, first discovered that it relieved all disability in some patients with Multiple Sclerosis and prevented recurrent attacks. Since then, doctors in Scotland, where they have the highest incidence of Multiple Sclerosis, find that one of the earliest signs of recovery in this population is relief of neurogenic bladder. It is said that persons with Multiple Sclerosis must remain on LDN for 1.5 years before they might fully assess its value.

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 Multiple Sclerosis may be flared unless very small doses of LDN are used.

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Many with Mulitple Sclerosis cannot tolerate more than 2 or 3 mg, perhaps due to spasticity. There is a great deal of dogma on the web about its mechanism, dosing and timing for off label use. Use the search function on this site to review the prior discussions I posted on LDN, MS, CRPS.

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Naltrexone is a glial modulator.

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What’s that?!

.

By serendipity, four years ago I discovered naltrexone in low dose may relieve chronic intractable pain. I had been using it for perhaps eight years in microgram doses but I found in milligram doses it is even more profound.

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The mechanism of naltrexone and a wee bit of glial research is discussed here. The Nobel Prize was awarded last year for the discovery that these glia are your innate immune system. They are profoundly important in many diseases including chronic pain, Major Depression, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimers, Parkinsons Disease, ALS, Autism. They produce inflammatory cytokines that lead to inflammation.

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Now that she has been home for two weeks, on a number of medications that I started, not just the ketamine and LDN, I hope she will comment on her experience and her progress since flying back to the east coast after her brief visit here.

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It is often essential to taper off opioids to allow other medication to work.

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I feel she was able to benefit from these low doses of medication because she tapered off all opioid medication prior to her visit, thus allowing her system to recover and respond to these medications. We will know more in the next few months as she slowly titrates up on some of the medications that were started.

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Next year on her return, we may be able to withdraw some of the medications depending on how well she is doing.

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Finally, ketamine does cause her to have brief side effects. Her husband likens the effect the same as half a glass of wine: “She’s really cute.” Thankfully, most people have no side effects and if they do, they rarely last more than 20 minutes.

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She sends an update below, 80 to 90% better. Hopefully this will continue to improve over the next months as she slowly increases the medication we started. And ketamine has an additive effect in some. It is anti-inflammatory.

.

.

~~~~~

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.

.

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.

~~~~~

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

.

.

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