By Dr. Eugene Gosy
The controversy in a recent article in The Buffalo News about the total number of people in the United States with chronic pain is, as Shakespeare might have called it, much ado about nothing. Chronic pain is a real and in many cases debilitating diagnosis.
In 2013, the U.S. Census estimated that 240 million people over the age of 18 lived in America. Recent research statistics say 100 million people (about 40 percent) in our country suffer from chronic pain. Others dispute that figure, saying it’s far less, only 20-25 percent of the population.
The article questioned the 100 million figure, stating that nine of the 19 members of the panel that researched those chronic pain statistics had financial connections to drug companies within the previous three years.
First, a majority of the panel had no connection, so if they did not agree with the results, they could have voted it down. They did not. Second, just because nine of the panelists had financial connections doesn’t mean they were wrong or even biased.
When pharmaceutical companies hire medical experts for studies, they hire the best so they won’t waste a great deal of money developing and marketing a product that will be recalled.
This medical panel also wanted the best medical researchers, so the members asked the same top-notch medical people to be on their panel as well.
But even assuming the lower number is correct, that still means that about 60 million people over 18 in the United States struggle through each day with pain that most of us cannot comprehend. That also means approximately 40 percent of households in the country have someone living in chronic pain.
That lower total is still almost double the number of people in the United States suffering from lupus, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and diabetes combined. Many of the people suffering from those diseases live their lives in chronic pain.
This isn’t a controversy about how many people suffer from chronic pain. It’s about a mistaken belief that people claiming to be in pain are, or will be, treated with opiates, in this case Zohydro. Most of them are not. In fact, some patients have managed their chronic pain for decades never having been on an opiate because their treatment didn’t call for it.
Critics forget about the individual tragedies behind each chronic pain case. Whether it’s a person agonizing from cancer, fibromyalgia, migraines or sports injuries, they need and deserve treatment to help eliminate or at least minimize their pain so they can function as close to normally as possible.
As long as the treatment is medically sound, it shouldn’t matter what the prescription is. No one should be forced to suffer with chronic pain.
Dr. Eugene Gosy is a neurologist and founder/chief medical officer of Gosy & Associates Pain and Neurology Treatment Center.