Pain Costs U.S. $635 Billion a Year: Report

Cultural shift needed in approach to prevention, treatment, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Pain afflicts at least 116 million adults in the United States each year and costs the nation $560 billion to $635 billion annually in medical and economic costs, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Wednesday.

But most of this pain is preventable and could be better managed if public and private organizations worked together to achieve a cultural shift in how the nation understands and approaches pain management and prevention, according to the report authors.

They recommended a number of changes, including some that could be implemented by the end of 2012 and others that could be in place by 2015.

"Given the large number of people who experience pain and the enormous cost in terms of both dollars and the suffering experienced by individuals and their families, it is clear that pain is a major public health problem in America," report committee chair Philip Pizzo, dean, professor of pediatrics, and professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University School of Medicine, said in an IOM news release.

"All too often, prevention and treatment of pain are delayed, inaccessible, or inadequate. Patients, health care providers, and our society need to overcome misperceptions and biases about pain. We have effective tools and services to tackle the many factors that influence pain and we need to apply them expeditiously through an integrated approach tailored to each patient," Pizzo said.

Among the recommendations:

  • Most care and management of pain should be done through primary care providers and patient self-management, with specialty care reserved for more complex cases. Health care organizations should take the lead in encouraging and educating patients in pain self-management.
  • Pain education should be included in training programs for physicians, dentists, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals. Many health professionals are not adequately trained to provide the full range of pain care or to guide patients in pain self-management.
  • Medicare, Medicaid, workers' compensation programs, and private health plans should find ways to cover interdisciplinary pain care.
  • The U.S. National Institutes of Health should designate one of its institutes to take the lead in moving pain research forward and increase the scope and resources of its existing Pain Consortium.

Congress requested the study, which was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. The Institute of Medicine operates under the National Academy of Sciences.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about pain.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: U.S. Institute of Medicine, news release, June 29, 2011

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