Chronic pain sufferers advocate against stigma of prescription pain meds
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — For chronic pain sufferers, there is a real problem with the abuse of painkillers in the United States. While the number of patients who have a legitimate need for prescription painkillers — 100 million plus — is vastly more than the number of people addicted to painkillers — 11 million — there is a stigma attached to the prescribing, dispensing and utilization of pain medicines. And that stigma has created an, at times, insurmountable hurdle that leaves legitimate patients suffering in silence.
“The person seeking relief from pain is not [suffering] from the same disease as a person who is an addict,” said Paul Gileno, president of the U.S. Pain Foundation. “Two separate diseases … [But] it’s hard to decipher because right away [people associate] pain patients with that group of addicts.”
According to a 2011 report from the Institutes of Medicine, more than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Of those, 25.8 million suffer chronic pain from diabetes, 23.3 million suffer chronic pain from a cardiovascular event, and 11.9 million suffer chronic pain from cancer.
Conversely, the number of abusers totals 11 million, according to a May 2014 report in JAMA Internal Medicine. Of those, 55.5% are men, 32.1% are between the ages of 18 and 25, and 58.5% make less than $50,000 each year. Only 12% of Americans older than the age of 50 — an age group arguably more closely associated with diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer — abuse painkillers for nonmedical purposes.
“Out of those 11 million who are abusing pain medications, we don’t know that they’re coming out of the 100 million Americans [with chronic pain], because we don’t know if they’re legitimate pain patients at the start,” Gileno said. While there is certain to be some overlap, the 11 million may simply represent addicts who have chosen pain medicines as their conduit to get high.
But the media focus has historically been on the addicts and how to curtail their access to the pain medicines they crave. That creates a real stigma that inhibits access for legitimate patients from doctors to pharmacists to the patients themselves.
“Doctors are limiting prescribing because of the stigma,” Gileno said. “[And] pharmacies are either not carrying products or questioning patients on their prescriptions even though they have a legitimate [need].” The stigma associated with pain medicines even extends to patients, with many patients worried that they may become an addict because they’ve been prescribed an opioid to address their chronic pain. “They listen to the media instead of their doctor,” he said, and forego the appropriate care.
According to a recent analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 27% of the highest risk painkiller users get opioids through their own prescriptions. They are about four times more likely than the average user to buy the drugs from a dealer.
Researchers analyzed data for the years 2008 through 2011 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Other major sources of opioids for frequent nonmedical users include obtaining drugs from friends or relatives for free (26%), buying from friends or relatives (23%) or buying from a drug dealer (15%).
In an effort to abate the stigma associated with legitimate use of pain medicines, the U.S. Pain Foundation fields some 200 “Pain Ambassadors” who make up a grassroots education campaign — first, that chronic pain sufferers have both legitimate needs for and significant hurdles in acquiring their pain remedies, and second, that there are market-driven options available, such as abuse-deterrent medicines. “For us, as a patient advocacy group, that’s what we need to do,” Gileno said. “An educated patient is an empowered patient. An empowered patient is a better patient for a doctor because the doctor can actually help them on their journey to get them the answers they need.”
Jessica Alba’s Honest Co. to carry products at Target
LOS ANGELES — The Honest Co., which was co-founded by actress Jessica Alba, has teamed up with Target to offer a selection of the Honest Co.’s products in all Target stores and an expanded assortment on Target.com starting June 15.
"As a busy working mom, I know you can’t always anticipate when you’re going to need something. It’s great to have a partner like Target that offers convenience and great values at any given moment. We’re excited to launch the Honest Co. products in Target stores and on Target.com to provide easy access to our safe, stylish and accessibly-priced products," stated Alba, president and co-founder, the Honest Co.
Through the ongoing partnership, Target stores will carry diapers, wipes and personal care items including face and body lotion, conditioner and shampoo and body wash, as well as household products ranging from a multi-surface cleaner to sweet-smelling dish soap and durable laundry detergent. Target.com will feature 150 product options including items found in Target stores, as well as online exclusives, such as a natural bug spray, diaper cakes, fruit and veggie wash, dish towels and more. Products range in price from $4.95 to $124.95. The Honest Co. will give a portion of proceeds to families in need from all product sales at Target.
The Honest Co. was founded in 2012 as an e-commerce site and offers a line of more than 65 products. In addition to categories offered at Target, Honest offers health and wellness products and the Collective, a collection of designer collaborations, available at Honest.com.
Walgreens recognized for $1.5 million gift to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES — Walgreens has made a $1.5 million gift to support clinical care and research programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Walgreens was recognized on Wednesday with the unveiling of special signage during a commemoration ceremony in the hospital’s popular Family Pantry, located in CHLA’s Marion and John E. Anderson Pavilion.
“I want to thank Walgreens for this generous gift to support the hospital’s mission,” said Richard Cordova, president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “This gift will mean so much to the patients and families relying on CHLA. It will allow us to provide world-class pediatric care, conduct ground-breaking medical research, provide community outreach to underserved youth and train the next generation of pediatricians and nurses.”
Walgreens has been a hospital supporter since 2011. Walgreens has raised almost $600,000 in support of CHLA.
“We are proud to partner with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles to care for sick children and their families,” said Scott Corley, Walgreens VP operations and community development. “Walgreens is committed to helping the communities we serve, and in partnership with our stores, employees and customers, we can all work together to make sure every child has access to high quality, affordable care so they have the opportunity to get, stay and live well. ”