By Barby Ingle, President
Power of Pain Foundation
As a leader in the pain community and someone who personally advocates for pain patients on a daily basis, I strongly believe that we can combat the issues of abuse while still giving patients who need pain relief a safe, effective and accountable access to these medications. With many new medications, private and government insurers put limits that make it difficult to access the medicines. With the societal cost of limiting pain management so high, such an approach is penny wise and pound foolish. There are many things we can do to increase access to these treatments, but we need to start with the recognition of their value and the promise they hold for many pain patients who have been denied care due to suspicion.
Numerous studies have found that drug access restrictions interfere with consumer compliance, increase the likelihood of treatment dropouts and cost more in the end than any short-term “savings” achieved. For example, a recent study in Ohio by the firm of Driscoll and Fleeter found that $6 million dollars in annual state “savings” would be offset by more than $23 million in annual public costs due to the negative consequences of medication restrictions. As a result of that study, Ohio has taken action to improve Medicaid access to medications. Treatment deficiencies for adults and children with serious disorders yield more hospitalizations, emergency room trips, visits to general medical practitioners, job loss, homelessness, justice system incarceration and early death – all resulting in significant human and financial cost to the individual with the illness, the families involved and society as a whole.
With time being of the essence in treating adults and children with chronic and debilitating disorders, it is important to remember that early treatment can improve the course of the disease. Any unnecessary delay in that process, such as what can be caused by a prior authorization requirements, step therapy practices, delays in prescription filling, and legislation that stops access to proper care, are costly to States and insurance companies. These practices are also devastating to the individual suffering with chronic pain.
With over 100 million Americans in pain we must stand as a united pain community that addresses access to care issues while also addressing the abuse potential with a balanced approach. The responsible patients should not be punished by the crackdown on prescription drug and opioid abuse. We know that there is a need to stem the tide of drug abuse, but not at the detriment to those who need proper and timely care. It will also prove beneficial to support the removal of barriers to non-opioid therapies as a first line of treatment for pain.
We need to consider what is best for chronic pain patient. It is clear that insurers can best save money on treatments for chronic pain by ensuring the most effective treatments are administered early on in the disease process. Ineffective treatment is associated with chronification of pain as well as depression, anxiety, and disability. Most importantly we need to change our policies to develop a strong lasting solution to this health crisis.
Barby Ingle is a chronic pain educator, patient advocate, and President of the board for the Power of Pain Foundation. Barby is also a motivational speaker and best-selling author on pain topics. She has been a pain patient since developing endometriosis in 1997, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy in 2002.