The Dangers of Pain
Pain is a serious subject to the millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide who are incapacitated by its numerous forms. It is also a big business and the choice of treatment is one that has enormous consequences not just for sufferers and their clinicians, but for entire industry segments dedicated to treating pain.
For researchers and vendors in the neuromodulation industry, advancing our understanding of pain mechanisms and producing meaningful clinical data is critical, not just for scientific reasons, but for political reasons as well. Consider for example the denial of workers compensation coverage for spinal cord stimulation in Washington State, which was upheld by an appellate court earlier this month. The existence of more solid “class A” evidence backing up SCS pain neuromodulation might have headed off this threat at the outset.
Aside from the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry also presents a potential threat to pain neuromodulation vendors, and not just because pain medications are the prime treatment regimen. Many investigators have reported that opioid administration can interfere with pain studies, making it harder to obtain the class A evidence in the first place. Opioid addiction has not only become a serious health problem in itself, but the failure of clinicians to wean patients from overused medications interferes with their potential benefit from alternative therapies.
Because of these issues, we were encouraged to learn that the U.S. Army is taking action to help wounded soldiers avoid prescription drug addiction. As a result of Operation OpioidSAFE, veterans are getting back into the field with the help of new programs and technologies developed to improve function without the use of opioids. The comprehensive new program strives to educate soldiers, their families, and primary care providers of the tragic side effects of long-term prescription opioids. Every year, 10,000 soldiers at Ft. Bragg are prescribed opioids to treat chronic pain. Up to 40 percent of them end up abusing their medications.
“Our goal in establishing Operation OpioidSAFE was to combat senseless deaths directly related to prescription pain killers,” said Major Anthony Dragovich, the Army doctor who created the program. “We constantly stress the sentiment that prescription opioids should be treated with the same care and attention that we pay our soldiers throughout military training. We cannot overlook the dangers that arise from opioid abuse.” Dragovich’s team created a You Tube video emphasizing the importance of safe prescription drug use as well as alternative pain treatments like neuromodulation.
The neurotech industry can only hope for more efforts like this.
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