Off opioids, pain better. Life is back!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I’ve seen worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong thin

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

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

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Once off opioids:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CASE REPORT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2nd visit, 4 weeks later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I have seen patients become even better simply off opioids.

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

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

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

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

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

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Obesity.

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

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

 

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The problem remains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This site is not for email.

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

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

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


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

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

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Addiction is a brain disease.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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America cares about addiction. Deaths. Headlines. Votes.

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

Dear NFMCPA Supporter,

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

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

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

Demoralized Jeb Bush Succumbs to Heroin Epidemic in New Hampshire


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Demoralized Jeb Bush Succumbs

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To New Hampshire 

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Heroin Epidemic

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Headlines, the Onion

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– The picture of Jeb is wonderful –

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Or

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All street drugs should be legalized and in free clinics

where counseling is also available only if desired.

Why We Need To Image Glia, Cure Addiction, & Get Good Pain Control

Not just for former NFL players dying of CTE

Who does not fear Alzheimers?

 

Ever thought about neuroinflammation?

A renowned researcher imaged glia at Max Planck in the 1990’s,

now in Sydney

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Professor Richard Banati is an internationally recognized scientist with interdisciplinary research interests in the brain’s innate immune system and the development of advanced medical imaging for the non-invasive study of brain function.

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Look, we already spent a trillion dollars on the war on drugs. And what does Prohibition breed? Gangs, the drug mafia.

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Don’t worry, I’ll tie this together, but I want you to understand this is a unified field.

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The heroin epidemic is a big issue including among upper and middle class. It’s everywhere and cheap.

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Pain is a neurological disease, so is addiction. So are psychiatric diseases (Freud). Don’t you think it’s about time we studied them? All street drugs need to be legalized. Research: Portugal decriminalized drugs 14 years ago. It saves billions and treats the cause. Shall we base the practice of medicine on criminal justice or a health-based approach?

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A major cause of addiction and or heroin abuse is seeking pain relief. People use heroin for pain: think former NFL football players, athletes, business people, mothers, actors, people of all ages with nerve and bone crushing diseases – a major cause of addiction is people cannot get pain treated, even if they are rich or live in certain states like Florida where laws are unusually strict.

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Jeb Bush actually was the governor when some of the strictest laws of the country were enacted in his state to prevent adequate pain medication. His current statement says:

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“Beyond the Mexican cartels, abuse of prescription painkillers, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, is a contributing cause of the epidemic of heroin and fentanyl abuse, and a major concern in its own right. A staggering four in 10 Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription painkillers.”

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He enumerates the devastating financial costs when we do things the old way. And wants stiffer law enforcement. Research shows the opposite works better, saves billions. Portugal.

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It’s a hot topic. Who can disagree? Drug laws don’t work – research in 11 countries. Inescapable.

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Shocking that so many pain specialists and pain researchers in Florida have strong words to say about Florida laws that tie the hands for pain relief.

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From a conservative view point, you’d think government should take its hands off and allow medicine to follow standard of practice set by research, not politicians.

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Florida attracts former athletes and seniors who like warm weather on their bones and joints.

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Jeb was also the governor who signed the “Stand your ground laws.” How wise or controversial is that? How many states have jailed patients for seeking pain control like Florida? See 60 Minutes more than a decade ago. Maybe Jeb will be swayed by research. We all need to understand the brain. Ask every candidate how much their health plan covers behavioral therapy. Pain is an emotional experience. So is addiction. Biological too. But the emotionals have to cope with it. The amygdala gets battered by fear and pain and craving.

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All things being equal, pain care is most difficult in Florida.

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I know plenty of pain patients who stop craving when they have a spare they know they can always rely on, rather than squeek by with not enough. Fear is a natural reaction with pain. More than a third of middle class cancer patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center overused their opioids or loaned them to a friend per a study done around 1991 when I was there. It gets confusing what we are dealing with. And some people don’t always follow rules – does your mother? Grandmother? 

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You can lose everything when you have severe pain. If you cannot concentrate, then you cannot play bal.l no matter how high paying and dynamic your job could be. Pain takes everything out of you. All that free time, wanting to go back to work – it used to be your life. Playing football, disabled at 24, made the team but injuries. No money. Heroin is everywhere. I’ve seen how retiring as a major player destroys the ego. Even Namath mentioned that the other day, did he not? Imagine the pain taking you out early when you held such promise.

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You may not be an addict, but you know heroin is cheap. Pain justifies many things. Loss of job, loss of friends as old friends call you for Christmas or Thanksgiving but pain is so severe you always have to pass.

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A major cause of addiction or heroin abuse is failure to obtain pain relief.

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I’d like to see this research:

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  • How many suicides are related to untreated pain?

  • How many heroin addicts have untreated pain?

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We need research to inform the best approach. And we need to get up to speed on the vast benefits of legalizing all drugs of all kinds. See the results of Portugal’s studies. See the last thing I posted.

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Most important of all we must be able to image glia. The clinical work for that should begin in La Jolla near Scripps and UCSD where we have a nearby cyclotron and the renowned Alzheimer’s leadership at UCSD. CTE can be imaged and many former NFL players live here, as do seniors and a vibrant research community for stem cells and new immunopharmacologies. Scripps Research Institue, Sanford Burnham, so many renowned research institutes all new the scanner. Read my post January 2011 on glia, pain and the immune system.

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I am led to believe a politician would succumb of asphyxia if they mentioned there is a better way to treat addiction and pain.

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They should walk into any cancer hospital and see untreated pain. It’s not the cancer that always kills. UCLA research mid 1970’s by past president of the American Pain Society proved PAIN KILLS. It aggressively triggers cancer to grow faster and more metastatic, killing far sooner than the group whose cancer pain was treated.

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Pain Kills

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Heroin Kills.

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Legalize it and stop treating pain patients like addicts.

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Every single time they see a doctor or pharmacist, year after year, month after month until they are in tears.

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We Need:

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  • A billion dollars for pain research. Someone’s got to pursue repurposing old drugs for new uses: to reduce neuroinflammation and get at the root cause of all diseases it creates including neuronal death. Glia are 10 times more numerous than neurons. They are cells in the CNS that are your innate immune system. Inflammation is the basis of almost all known disease. 

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  • A billion dollars for addiction – Portugal’s model that legalizes all drugs.

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  • Finance this by holding back from the federal prisons that incarcerate youth who once had a fraction of an ounce of marijuana and were sentenced to life – man that costs a fortune! and from the trillion dollar war on drugs.

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Come on boys, it’s in your families too. Every politician knows someone with pain, Alzheimers, even addiction. Professor Banati knows the best way to proceed. He’s led the field since the 1990’s. How long will we wait to address brain damage? How long can we afford to overlook cells that outnumber neurons by 10 to 1? That create inflammation that destroys neurons?

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We have an epidemic.

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It costs money and lives.

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Who is not afraid of Alzheimers or of pain?

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This site is not for email.

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

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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.

~~~~~

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free educational website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Before we have an effective alternative,

CDC wants to take opioids away.

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

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

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

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

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

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Americans need to take action through the American Pain Society.

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I have written recently about the radical CDC opioid guidelines:

 

Tapering patients without sound and attainable alternatives

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Tampering with patient autonomy

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Failure to provide informed consent

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Avoidance of coercion

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Nonmeleficence – Do No Harm – Primum non nocere

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Treating patients like numbers not individualized

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Intellectual and academic dishonesty

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Anti-opioid zealots supported by zealous insurers? 

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Containment of drug costs, not pain

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Failure to assess risk vs benefit

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etc, etc – refer to prior posts

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

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not for email.

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

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Please be aware any advertising on this free website is

NOT advocated by me and NOT approved by me.

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


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Drug Overdoses Propel Rise in

Mortality Rates of Young Whites

New York Times

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


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Your pain. Your lives. Their profit.

A thorny problem.

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

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

Chronic severe pain affects forty million Americans.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

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FACT:

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

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

  • 100 million with chronic pain.

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

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

  • Suicide increases with untreated pain

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

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

  • Insurance is unaffordable or not purchased by many young adults

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Lyrica

    • Horizant

    • Gralise

    • Cymbalta

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Opioids kill – or is it untreated pain?

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Pain kills, a maleficent force.

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

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

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

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

reduce pain without medication?

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

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

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

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

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

large coke 140 calories, walk off 30 minutes.

Foods can be anti-inflammatory or pro-inflammatory.

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Obesity is pro-inflammatory.

So is lack of sleep.

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

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Yes, pain is in your mind.

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

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

Work on it! Constantly.

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

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

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

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Isn’t this all un-American?

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

Taxpayers end up paying for ignorance and disability.

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

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

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

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

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Please send in your stories. You are not alone.

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

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Clematis Blue.

 The New York Times article further says:

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

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

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

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

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

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

It is not a substitute for medical advice,

diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

Relevant comments are welcome.

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

This site is not email for personal questions.

~~~~~

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


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PROPOSAL

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A controlled trial to improve care for chronic pain:

The study to understand prognoses and preferences for

outcomes and risks of treatments

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Model after Joanne Lynn’s 1995 SUPPORT Study

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

The study to understand prognoses and preferences for

outcomes and risks of treatments (SUPPORT)

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Proposal

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

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The focus:

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

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

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

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Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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MAJOR FUNDING DECLINE IN PAIN RESEARCH

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 BEFORE 2008

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 BEFORE CONGRESS CUT NIH BUDGET BY UNTHINKABLE 30% IN 2010

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

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

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

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

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[emphasis mine.]

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

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

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

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Prescription of opioids is justified and may be invaluable.

but there is little or no research on

 treatment of intractable pain without opioids.

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We need national consensus guidelines based on data

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

 

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Treatment must be individualized

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Data is needed to guide choice

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Compounded Medications are among the

most useful drugs we have for treatment of intractable pain

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

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

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

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

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BALANCE IS NEEDED

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

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 If doctors cannot see the devastating toll that pain takes,

how can we expect accountants to see it?

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The Study We Need

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Solution

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

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  • Five years in duration

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

  • At five major university teaching hospitals for regional differences

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 Outcomes

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The study will yield important information about the following:

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  • Efficacy

  • Pain Numeric Rating Scores, Percent Improvement

  • Functional Improvement, etc

  • Compounded medications

  • Racial and Gender Disparities

  • Addicts who have chronic pain

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

  • Interventional procedures

  • Meditation

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

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

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

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

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

  • Glia, the Innate Immune System

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

Restore cytokine balance, reduce inflammation and pain.

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

  • Pain in the person with Alzheimers dementia

  • Danger of combining opioids with benzodiazepines

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

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

  • Appropriateness of opioid holidays.

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

  • Cost Benefit Analysis

 

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Five Conditions Will Be Studied

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

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1. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

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

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2. Low Back Pain

Define criteria for surgery.

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

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

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


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

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5. You choose – central pain?

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What We Must Do Now

 

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

  • Fund the pain SUPPORT study

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Require insurance coverage for compounded medications.

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

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

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

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

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

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Physical Therapy is the #1 Key to Chronic Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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Prescription painkiller overdose epidemic in the U.S.

Not in other countries

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

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

from the CDC report of prescription painkiller overdose epidemic

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yellow rose blue hibiscus

 

 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.
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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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

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This site is not for email and not for appointments.

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

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

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Please ignore the ads below. They are not from me.

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