According to Federal health officials, there are more than 115 million people across the United States who suffer from pain. I see it every day in my practice. Pain can be devastating — controlling a person and their basic ability to lead a quality life.
In many cases, a physician who is trained and board certified in pain medicine can utilize a combination of approaches like physical therapy or non-addictive medicines to relieve the pain and improve function. However, in some circumstances, opioid pain relievers are needed and can be very effective — but these drugs can be abused and addictive, adding a whole new layer of pain.
Sadly, Indiana has the 17th-highest drug mortality rate in the country. So there has to be a better way.
Patients who go to pain clinics are often prescribed on traditional generic opioids — as most insurance plans prefer such. These medications often result in a built up tolerance, have a high abuse potential and have economic value on the street — leading to drug seekers. As for the innocent, looking only for relief, there are psychosocial adverse effects, sometimes changing a person’s mood or causing an individual to behave differently.
We must revisit our ability to provide appropriate pain control in a safe setting. Many physicians are hopeful that state policymakers are actively looking at newer solutions and integrating new pharmaceutical technology into their plans.
There is a new technology called Abuse-Deterrent Formulations, or ADFs, which are put into prescription pain medications, sometimes making pills impossible to crush or changing them into a thick substance that cannot be injected if heated. The technology acts as a barrier to prevent misuse, while enabling patients to feel better and live their lives.
Current standards of care from state agencies as well as the Food and Drug Administration, mandate that prescription pain medications be prescribed appropriately for chronic pain patients. Moreover, there are guidelines that physicians and providers need to follow in order to assess pain appropriately and reduce incidents or abuse.
Most physicians in Indiana demonstrate care and compassion when it comes to those experiencing chronic pain, and Hoosier physicians still have options when deciding what should be provided to a patient in need.
As abuse-deterrent formulations become more available, I hope more physicians utilize this option when appropriate, and patients should talk to their doctors about whether these ADF opioids could be right for them.
Managing pain needs can be very difficult and physicians should call for pain relief that does not result in addiction. I encourage our legislators to move forward and further legislation that mandates affordable insurance coverage of ADF drugs so pain patients can receive pain relief, with reduced medication misuse and economic hardships.
Dr. David E. Schultz is an owner and managing partner of Evansville Primary Care. He is also the President of the Indiana Academy of Family Physicians.