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Ongoing use of pain meds continues to be controversial…

Posted on February 21 2012 by Pat Killingsworth | 2,060 views

Like depression, the use, overuse and controversy surrounding pain meds directly affects a number of multiple myeloma patients–especially those of us with lasting bone damage.

Here is an excerpt from one of the best and most balanced articles I have ever read on the subject:

Chronic Pain Fuels Boom in Opioids

 By John Fauber, Reporter, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today – February 19, 2012

…Without rigorous scientific evidence to prove that their benefits out weigh potential harm, drugs like OxyContin and Vicodin increasingly have been used to treat a wide array of chronic pain syndromes including low back pain and fibromyalgia.

Current practices reflect a gradual shift from the use of these drugs to treat short-term acute pain such as post-surgical pain, as well as severe pain associated with metastatic cancer or end-of-life pain — uses that were based on solid evidence that such use was safe and effective.

But the benefit seen for those conditions was extended to treatment of chronic pain syndromes, an extrapolation that had no evidence to back it up.

Caught in the middle are millions of Americans with real pain that can last for years and thousands of doctors who want to help them…

Just because the article presents many sides of the issue, doesn’t mean it still isn’t a mess.  The problem is so complex, one article can’t cover it all–but this one tries.

Too many opioid type drugs are being prescribed for too many people.  At least this article attempts to analyze why from an industry insider’s point of view.

I would have great difficulty functioning without oxycodone.  Not because I’m addicted or even dependent, but because it dulls the pain caused by dozens of myeloma related “holes in my bones.”

Since I am on blood thinners indefinitely, I can’t take aspirin or ibuprofen.  Considering the risk of liver damage from Tylenol, oxycodone is my single best option.

But even more importantly for me, oxycodone is a Godsend when it comes to helping to minimize my peripheral neuropathy.  Without it, my hands and feet would throb and burn uncontrollably.

Balanced or not, the majority of this expose’ focuses on the misuse of prescription of pain medication and how the industry ever got to this point.

But buried deep within the body of the story I found this:

Underlying those fallacies, critics say, is an even larger one: That the use of narcotic painkillers to treat non-cancer pain lasting many months or years is supported by rigorous science.

“Non-cancer pain.”  At least the article acknowledges that many cancer patients need ongoing pain management which rises above all of the controversy.

CLICK HERE to access this important article about how drug companies have encouraged so much use–and misuse–of pain medication.

Feel good (no pun intended!) and keep smiling!  Pat

4 Comments For This Post

  1. Kate Farrell Says:

    It could make you angry that in addition to managing myeloma patients and caregivers must also not let themselves be victims of the politics and business of medicine and of BIG PHARMA. There are unscrupulous physicians who prescribe narcotics for reasons of greed and there are responsible physicians who are co-opted by the trappings and temptations of the pharma industry. This article made that clear. Best for us in the myeloma world to remember that pain affects the quality of life. And once the reason for the pain is diagnosed the goal needs to be relief of the pain. The best myeloma doc may not know all the treatments available to achieve that goal. Ask for a Pain Management consultation. And know that over time you may need increases in dosage of drugs not because you are “addicted” or getting worse but because your body does develop some tolerance to the drug. Thank the heavens for antibiotics and anti depressants and opioids and IMIDs and advocate for regulations to ensure that patients who need them get them without judgement.

  2. Kris Says:

    I question myself everytime I take an oxycodone, which I need to take almost everyday in addition to a fentanyl pain patch. I have experienced bone pain since I began treatment for mm three and a half years ago. None of my doctors can give me a reason for my pain. I finally went to a pain specialist who has diagnosed me with polymyalgia a form of artheritis. She has put me on low dose prednisone. It is supposedly supposed to eventually cure the condition in about a year. I have my doubts. I still experience pain.
    I hate taking oxycodone, but am so grateful it is available for me. It numbs my stinging pain enough so I can function. I definitly have a love hate relationship with my oxy.

  3. Pat Killingsworth Says:

    Excellent, excellent assessment, Kate! Care to elaborate and I will run it as a follow-up article?

  4. Pat Killingsworth Says:

    Dear Kris,
    I understand how you feel about the oxy. But please note Kate’s comments above… “Thank the heavens for antibiotics and anti depressants and opioids and IMIDs and advocate for regulations to ensure that patients who need them get them without judgement.”

    We should not feel guilty or be ostracized for taking a drug which helps us participate in day to day activities! I feel another rant/post coming on…

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