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Report reveals costs of chronic pain

Inefficient treatment regimes across Europe are increasing healthcare costs and prolonging patient suffering, finds 'Pain Proposal'

A report launched in the European Parliament (EP) shows inefficiencies in the treatment of chronic pain result in increasing healthcare costs and prolonged patient suffering.

The pan-European consensus report, the 'Pain Proposal: Improving the current and future management of chronic pain', was developed by European experts in the fields of chronic pain, policy and economics, in partnership with Pfizer, and calls on the European Union (EU) and Member States to tackle chronic pain and provide access to a minimum standard of care for sufferers. By treating it with the same seriousness afforded to other major conditions or diseases, the report argues that both cost savings and better outcomes for patients will be delivered through more efficient pain management.

The report found that the pathway through the healthcare system for people with chronic pain is often lengthy, convoluted and inefficient. In addition, the lack of public awareness of chronic pain and its impact leaves people ill-equipped to seek help or take appropriate action to manage their condition from its onset. As many as 100 million Europeans with chronic pain want to be active members of society, but feel their condition stands in their way.

Speaking at the launch, host Member of the EP and vice chair of the Disability Intergroup, MEP Cecilia Wikström, stated: "This pain initiative helps to increase awareness of the personal, social and economic impact of chronic pain in Europe, and underlines the need for more efficient health systems to improve patient care."

The conclusions show that access to pain management services is highly inconsistent, both among and within countries, and that the type of care offered by pain services differs greatly.

"European economies cannot sustain the current spend on chronic pain - for example welfare costs which may run into millions. There are steps we can take to improve the current system and help people get the recognition, diagnosis and treatment they need for this life-long condition. We believe that by working together to address inefficiencies we can make this goal a reality," commented Professor Giustino Varrassi, president of the European Federation of IASP Chapters (EFIC), professor and chairman, department of anaesthesiology and pain medicine, L'Aquila University, Medical School, Italy.

By making chronic pain a priority, the EU in partnership with its Member States can share best practice examples, raise public understanding and awareness and develop national chronic pain strategies in order to use existing resources more efficiently for pain management.

Following an initial meeting in January, the Pain Proposal steering committee led an executive committee meeting of 50 experts from 15 countries in Europe in July 2010 to debate what steps should be taken. The insights from this meeting fed into this Pain Proposal report.

29th September 2010

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