Inaugural Post

January 3, 2012 10:57 am Dr. Webster 1 Comment

Welcome to my blog!

As we start a new year I want express my thanks to everyone who takes the time to read this inaugural blog.

The intent of this blog is to be informative and provide you, the reader, insight about timely health care issues. Initially I will focus on two public health challenges: prescription drug abuse and chronic pain.

Everyone who reads a newspaper or magazine is aware of the dramatic increase in the number of individuals who have been harmed by prescription medications.  I have spent considerable time and effort addressing this issue, and it this reason why the LifeSource Foundation was established.  Our focus will remain on preventing harm from prescription medications, but I also want to be sure those who can benefit from all types of pain therapies have appropriate access to them.

It is less well known that there are far more people who suffer from intractable pain than who are harmed from prescription medications.  This does not mean that we should accept the level of harm that exists today.  There are tragedies occurring every day that can be prevented.

On the surface it might seem that these two serious public health problems would have conflicting goals.   This is not true.  It is easy to set up a dichotomous choice, but that would be inappropriate and shallow thinking.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enlist the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in examining pain as a public health problem. Acting through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), HHS asked the IOM to assess the state of the science regarding pain research, care, and education and to make recommendations to advance the field.

They reported that over 100 million Americans experience chronic pain.  This is one of every three Americans!!  Nearly every American will know at least one person who has chronic pain.  It is even more likely that every American will experience chronic pain in their life.  The report suggests that many of these individuals are or will struggle to find access to care.  No other medical problem affects as many people or is more personal than the problem of pain.

The IOM declared that a cultural transformation is needed to better prevent, assess, treat, and understand pain.  The problem of prescription drug abuse also will require a cultural transformation to reverse the trend of overdoses deaths and abuse.

Here in lies the two major health care challenges of our time.

One of the mainstays of therapy for moderate to severe pain has been opioid therapy.  For many individuals, this is the only treatment that provides relief. Nothing else is as effective.  While there are many physicians, regulators and other interested parties who contest to this notion, there are some who believe opioids should not be used for chronic pain regardless of the severity of pain.

In the last 12 years the amount of opioids prescribed has dramatically increased. Yet it is unclear how this has contributed to the harm that has also occurred during this time.

An important first step in reversing the trend of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths is for better prescriber education.  Another is for the public and patients to be more cognizant of the potential harm from these drugs if they aren’t used as directed.  I will be writing more about these issues in future blog posts.

Again, thank you for reading my inaugural blog post.  Please be sure to check back soon for more posts, and don’t forget to share your stories, comments and experiences!

Lynn Webster, MD

Filed Under: Pain Medication Abuse Tagged With: Chronic PainPrescription Drug Abuse

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