About 31 percent of the total population in America; almost 100 million people are subjected to chronic pain.
National Institute of Health (NIH) has recently set up a panel to investigate the present situation of these chronic pain sufferers.
MedPage Today reported that the observations made by the panel were presented in September at an NIH Pathways to Prevention workshop. Also a final report, mainly based on the work by Roger Chou, MD, of Oregon Health and Science University Chou and his colleagues was issued at the end of the workshop. The reports were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Chou and his team found out that most randomized, controlled trials of opioids for chronic pain lasted shorter than 6 weeks, and nearly all ran for no longer than 16 weeks. There are also evidences of abuse and overdose.
It was reported that a substantial number of patients are never given the right treatment. Approximately 5 to 8 million chronic pain patients are on unnecessary opioids.
The panelists concluded that opioids may turn out to be beneficial in certain cases but for most of the sufferers, better medications and more effective approaches are likely to be available. “The lack of scientific evidence on effectiveness and harms of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain is clear and is in striking contrast to its widespread use for this condition and the large increase in prescription opioid-related overdoses,” Chou and colleagues added.
It has also been found that a large number of patients are on prescribed opioids without careful examination by the physicians. Panelist David Steffens, MD, MHS, of the University of Connecticut, and colleagues wrote that the main reason for this problem is the lack of knowledge about the best possible approaches to treat different kinds of pain.
A number of investigations by MedPage Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel further revealed that many doctors and researchers, after receiving money from the manufacturers, intentionally promote these opioids amongst patients.
According to TIME, the same report showed that the number of opioid prescriptions for pain has gone from 76 million in 1991 to 219 million in 2011, and based on the recent data from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been around 17,000 opioid-related overdose deaths in 2011.
NIH believes that to improve the present condition, individualized treatment procedure and a multidisciplinary approach should be followed. NIH concluded saying the toughest challenge is to identify the conditions where opioids are necessary and where they can be avoided. This knowledge gap needs to be reduced with newer research designs in future.