The Price of Treating Chronic Pain is High

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The Price of Treating Chronic Pain is High
The Price of Treating Chronic Pain is High

(HealthDay News) — Chronic pain conditions pose a substantial utilization burden on the health care system, according to a study published online Oct. 7 in Pain Practice.

Peter W. Park, Ph.D., from Pfizer Inc. in New York City, and colleagues analyzed electronic medical records and health claims data from the Henry Ford Health System to determine health care resource utilization and costs for patients with 24 chronic pain conditions (January to December 2010).

Based upon 12,165 patients, the researchers found that aside from pharmacy, outpatient visits were the most used resource, with a mean 18.8 visits per patient for the post-index period. Specialty visits accounted for 59.0 percent of outpatient visits. A mean of 5.2 discrete imaging tests were utilized per patient. Opioids were the most commonly prescribed medication (38.7 percent). For all conditions, the total annual direct costs were $386 million ($31,692 per patient; a 40 percent increase from the pre-index). Over 14 percent of total costs were from pharmacy costs, but outpatient visits were the primary cost driver.

"This type of research supports integrated delivery systems as a source for assessing opportunities to improve patient outcomes and lower the costs for chronic pain patients," the authors write.

Several authors are employees of Pfizer, the sponsor of the study.

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