Pain Management

Related Chapters:
Addictive Properties
Heroin Assisted Treatment
Methadone Treatment
Opioid Crisis

Page last updated June 9, 2020 by Doug McVay, Editor/Senior Policy Analyst.

41. Overdose Risk Based on Prescription Type

"Dunn et al4 found that risk of drug-related adverse events among individuals treated for chronic noncancer pain with opioids was increased at opioid doses equivalent to 50 mg/d or more of morphine. Our analyses similarly found that the risk of opioid overdose increased when opioid dose was equivalent to 50 mg/d or more of morphine.
"The present study also extended prior research in several important ways. We used a large, national sample of individuals and focused exclusively on opioid overdose deaths. Because the circumstances that lead to overdose death may vary by the condition for which the opioid is prescribed and substance use disorder status, we conducted analyses for subgroups of patients, including those with cancer, acute pain, and substance use disorders.
"The present study also extended the prior research by exploring a novel risk factor, ie, concurrent prescriptions of regularly scheduled and as-needed opioids. We found that those patients who were simultaneously treated with as-needed and regularly scheduled opioids, a strategy for treating pain exacerbations,7,8 did not have a statistically significant increased risk of opioid overdose in adjusted models. Recent treatment guidelines have indicated that the long-term safety of this strategy for pain exacerbation has not been established,5,9 and in the present study we did not find evidence of greater overdose risk associated with this treatment practice after accounting for maximum daily dose and patient characteristics."

Bohnert, Amy S.B., et al., "Association Between Opioid Prescribing Patterns and Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths," Journal of the American Medical Association, April 6, 2011, Vol 305, No. 13, pp. 1319-1320.

42. Undertreatment of Pain Among Those With Chemical Dependency

"The undertreatment of pain is a significant concern in populations with chemical dependency. In painful disorders for which there is a broad consensus about the role of opioid therapy, specifically cancer and AIDS-related pain, studies have documented that this treatment commonly diverges from accepted guidelines. Undertreatment is far more challenging to assess when a broad consensus concerning optimal treatment approaches does not exist. It would be difficult, therefore, to determine the extent to which the pain and functional impairments experienced by patients in this study relate to inadequate pain management. However, given the number of barriers identified as potential reasons for inadequate pain management, it is appropriate to raise concerns about undertreatment and to investigate it further."

Rosenblum, Andrew, PhD, Herman Joseph, PhD, Chunki Fong, MS, Steven Kipnis, MD, Charles Cleland, PhD, Russell K. Portenoy, MD, "Prevalence and Characteristics of Chronic Pain Among Chemically Dependent Patients in Methadone Maintenance and Residential Treatment Facilities," Journal of the American Medical Association (Chicago, IL: American Medical Association, May 14, 2003), Vol. 289, No. 18, p. 2377.

43. Undertreatment of Pain Among the Elderly

"Factors affecting the severity of pain in the elderly include
"• complex manifestations of pain;
"• underreporting of pain;
"• concurrent problems and multiple diseases (comorbidities), which complicate diagnosis and treatment;
"• higher rates of medication side effects; and
"• higher rates of treatment complications (American Geriatrics Society, 2009).
"In general, these same factors also contribute to the documented undertreatment of pain in the elderly, along with the lack of an evidence base concerning the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic changes that occur with aging (Barber and Gibson, 2009). Similar to the situation with children in the past, elderly people rarely are included in clinical trials of medications, so clinicians have inadequate information about appropriate dosages and potential interactions with medications being taken for other chronic diseases (Barber and Gibson, 2009).
"A study of more than 13,000 people with cancer aged 65 and older discharged from the hospital to nursing homes found that, among the 4,000 who were in daily pain, those aged 85 and older were more than 1.5 times as likely to receive no analgesia than those aged 65-74; only 13 percent of those aged 85 and older received opioid medications, compared with 38 percent of those aged 65-74 (Bernabei et al., 1998). (A similar excess risk of receiving no analgesia was found among African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians compared with whites.)"

Institute of Medicine, "Relieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research" (Washington, DC: National Academy of Sciences, 2011), pp. 79-80.

44. Barriers to Availability of Legal Opioid Analgesics in the US

"The most common reason cited as a barrier to opioid availability was low demand (93.1%). However, this did not vary by opioid analgesic sufficiency, pharmacy racial composition, pharmacy type, level of zip code urbanization, level of opioid analgesic supply, median age, household income, or proportion of residents ?65 years old. The fear that patients might use opioid analgesics for illicit purposes was the second most prevalent barrier identified (8.5%). Concern with illicit opioid analgesic use was more likely to be reported as a barrier by pharmacies with insufficient opioid analgesic supplies when compared with those with sufficient supplies (30.3% vs 4.3%; P ? .01). Again, this did not vary by pharmacy racial composition, pharmacy type, level of zip code urbanization, median age, household income, or proportion of residents ?65 years old. Too much paperwork (1%) and fear of robbery (1%) were rarely identified as potential reasons for opioid analgesic unavailability. Measures of association between covariates and barriers were not computed for the least common barriers (ie, too much paperwork, fear of robbery, and drug disposal regulations) because of empty cells. Other responses cited for failing to supply opioid analgesics (eg, pharmacy was located in a small community, pharmacy was near a major medical center, and community residents do not have adequate health insurance coverage) were of low frequency and were not analyzed further."

Carmen R. Green, S. Khady Ndao-Brumblay, Brady West, and Tamika Washington, "Differences in Prescription Opioid Analgesic Availability: Comparing Minority and White Pharmacies Across Michigan," The Journal of Pain - October 2005 (Vol. 6, Issue 10, Pages 689-699, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2005.06.002), p. 694.

45. Racial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Availability of Opioid Analgesic Availability

"Disparities in pain assessment and treatment on the basis of race and ethnicity are well documented.29 Diminished ability to obtain access to opioid analgesics in local pharmacies is a significant barrier to quality pain care. The present investigation provides evidence that Michigan pharmacies in predominantly minority areas were significantly less likely to have sufficient prescription opioid analgesic supplies when compared with predominantly white areas. Regardless of median income and median age, significant differences were found in opioid analgesic availability on the basis of ethnic composition. These results support the findings of Morrison et al38 that pharmacies in predominantly minority neighborhoods stock insufficient opioid analgesic supplies more so than those in predominantly white neighborhoods. However, these results also extend their findings by demonstrating the role of both social class and income on opioid analgesic availability. More specifically, the odds for not having sufficient opioid analgesic supplies are significantly higher among pharmacies in low income areas when compared with higher income areas, regardless of race. More importantly, we identified that the odds of having insufficient supplies in minority neighborhoods changed significantly on the basis of income (ie, high or low) (OR, 13.36 vs 54.42). Thus, social class and poverty seem to play a role for whites more so than minorities. Noncorporate pharmacies were also more likely to have sufficient opioid analgesic supplies than corporate pharmacies. These results suggest that if an opioid analgesic is prescribed for pain management, persons living in minority zip codes (even in higher income areas) or those living in low income zip codes (regardless of minority status) face additional barriers to quality pain care. Thus, vulnerable populations (eg, minorities and low income individuals) are at increased risk for inefficient and lesser quality pain care."

Carmen R. Green, S. Khady Ndao-Brumblay, Brady West, and Tamika Washington, "Differences in Prescription Opioid Analgesic Availability: Comparing Minority and White Pharmacies Across Michigan," The Journal of Pain - October 2005 (Vol. 6, Issue 10, Pages 689-699, DOI: 10.1016/j.jpain.2005.06.002), p. 695.

46. Global Lack of Pain Relief

"Current estimates suggest that upward of 80% of the world’s population lacks access to basic pain relief [6]. Paradoxically, those 80% are mostly in poorer countries, and their need for pain relief is heightened by a relative absence of curative care such as surgery, or treatment for both communicable and non-communicable diseases causing pain (e.g., HIV/AIDS, cancer)[7]."

Nickerson, Jason W., and Attaran, Amir, "The Inadequate Treatment of Pain: Collateral Damage from the War on Drugs," PLoS Medicine (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Public Library of Science, Jan. 2012) Vol. 9, Issue 1, p. 1.

47. Global Medical Opiate Shortage

"We determined per capita need of strong opioids for pain related to three important pain causes for 188 countries. These needs were extrapolated to the needs for all the various types of pain by using an adequacy level derived from the top 20 countries in the Human Development Index. By comparing with the actual consumption levels for relevant strong opioid analgesics, we were able to estimate the level of adequacy of opioid consumption for each country. Good access to pain management is rather the exception than the rule: 5.5 billion people (83% of the world’s population) live in countries with low to nonexistent access, 250 million (4%) have moderate access, and only 460 million people (7%) have adequate access. Insufficient data are available for 430 million (7%). The consumption of opioid analgesics is inadequate to provide sufficient pain relief around the world. Only the populations of some industrialized countries have good access."

Marie-Josephine Seya, Susanne F. A. M. Gelders, Obianuju Uzoma Achara, Barbara Milani, and Willem Karel Scholten, "A First Comparison Between the Consumption of and the Need for Opioid Analgesics at Country, Regional, and Global Levels," Journal of Pain & Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy. 2011;25:6–18. ISSN: 1536-0288 print / 1536-0539 online. DOI: 10.3109/15360288.2010.536307

48. Global Lack of Access to Pain Medication

"Opioid medications are essential not only for drug dependence treatment but also for pain management. WHO estimates that 5 billion people live in countries with little or no access to controlled medicines that are used to treat moderate to severe pain.90 Up to 80% of the estimated 1 million patients in the end stages of AIDS are in great pain, but very few have access to pain relieving drugs91 because of insufficient knowledge among physicians, inadequate health systems, fears of addiction, antiquated laws, and unduly strict regulations.92"

Jürgens, Ralf; Csete, Joanne; Amon, Joseph J.; Baral, Stefan; and Beyrer, Chris, "People who use drugs, HIV, and human rights," The Lancet (London, United Kingdom: August 7, 2010) Vol. 376, Issue 9739, pp. 478-479.

49. Psychosocial Interventions and Chronic Pain Outcomes in Older Adults

"Mean treatment results demonstrated in the present study obscure variations at the individual patient level. Some older patients with chronic pain may receive substantial benefit through psychological therapy, while others may not benefit. There is no evidence that the beneficial results identified at the completion of treatment persisted up to 6 months for outcomes other than pain reduction. There were too few studies reporting long-term outcomes to determine completely whether this finding was due to decreased power or to a tapering of treatment benefits over time.

"The observed benefits were strongest when delivered using group-based approaches. Potential mechanisms that could account for this finding include access to peer support, social facilitation of target behaviors, and public commitment to therapy goals.52 No other results of participant, intervention, or study characteristics were found. Treatment benefits were equally likely to occur in older men and women irrespective of age and duration of chronic pain."

Niknejad B, Bolier R, Henderson CR, et al. Association Between Psychological Interventions and Chronic Pain Outcomes in Older AdultsA Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 07, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0756

50. Unrelieved Pain Continues To Burden Americans

"Pain remains one of the most common physical complaints upon a person’s admission into the healthcare system (Burton, Fanciullo, Beasley, & Fisch, 2007; Foley et al., 2005; Freburger et al., 2009; McCarberg, 2010; Peterlin, Rosso, Rapoport, & Scher, 2009; Schug & Chong, 2009; Weiss, Emanuel, Fairclough, & Emanuel, 2001). Pain is prevalent in cancer, especially near the end of life (Paice, 2010; Smith et al., 2010), and in other diseases and conditions such as HIV/AIDS (Breitbart & Cortes?Ladino, 2010; Tsao, Stein, & Dobalian, 2010) and sickle?cell anemia (American Pain Society, 1999; Ballas, 2010); indeed, persistent pain itself is increasingly being recognized as a disease (Institute of Medicine Committee on Advancing Pain Research, 2011). However, insufficient treatment attention often is given to appropriate pain relief, especially when pain is severe or prolonged. In extreme circumstances, pain can impair all aspects of life and sometimes contribute to a person’s wish for death (Fishman & Rathmell, 2010; Ilgen et al., 2013; Institute of Medicine Committee on Advancing Pain Research, 2011; Institute of Medicine National Cancer Policy Board, 2001; Wasan, Sullivan, & Clark, 2010). When pain relief is achieved, it can result in improved quality of living for people with prolonged pain and can decrease suffering for people at the end of life (Higginson & Evans, 2010)."

Pain & Policy Studies Group. Achieving Balance in Federal and State Pain Policy: A Guide to Evaluation (CY 2013). (University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center: Madison, WI, July 2014), p. 13.