Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Imperative to Relieve Pain

The latest issue of the NEJM has this interesting Perspective piece on pain in the US. Here is a sample:

The magnitude of pain in the United States is astounding. More than 116 million Americans have pain that persists for weeks to years. The total financial costs of this epidemic are $560 billion to $635 billion per year, according to Relieving Pain in America, 1 the recent report of an Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee that we cochaired. And these figures don't include pain in children or people in long-term care facilities, the military, or prison. The annual U.S. expenditures related to pain (including direct medical costs and lost wages) are higher than those for cancer, heart disease, and diabetes combined. They include nearly $100 billion annually from state and federal budgets. Yet the treatment covered by these expenditures doesn't fully alleviate Americans' pain. Indeed, our committee reviewed the scientific and clinical evidence, held public workshops, received testimony from more than 2000 Americans, commissioned a review on pain's economic burden, and concluded that relieving acute and chronic pain is a significant overlooked problem in the United States.