Patients with chronic pain don't have to suffer in silence
(24 October 2005: VIDYYA MEDICAL NEWS SERVICE) -- An estimated 50 million Americans live with persistent pain caused by disease, chronic health conditions, or accidents. Unfortunately, common misperceptions about pain and the medications that treat it often cause consumers to avoid seeking treatment. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) wants consumers to know that safe medication options to alleviate or eliminate pain are readily available and can help patients gain a better quality of life.
“Consumers should seek to be informed about pain management and the medications that are appropriate so that they don’t suffer needlessly,” said Jill Martin, Pharm.D., FASHP, president of ASHP and associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Cincinnati College of Pharmacy and director of transplant outcomes at University Hospital. “Pharmacists are a wonderful resource to turn to for this type of information because they are medication experts and can offer individualized care and assessment.”
Pain management, according to Martin, is a highly collaborative effort among physicians, pharmacists, and other health care professionals that is designed to improve a patient’s quality of life. It can include medications as well as physical and behavioral therapy and requires ongoing communication between the patient and his or her health care team about the success of the pain-control regimen.
Pharmacists play a number of roles in the pain-management process, including:
• Gathering and evaluating a patient’s medical history and entire medication regimen to guard against drug interactions, adverse effects, and duplicate therapy,
• Determining which medications or combination of drugs will work best in treating the patient, including evaluation of so-called “off-label” uses, in which a medication usually prescribed for an alternate condition such as epilepsy or depression is deployed to treat pain,
• Counseling the patient on any preconceived fears of addiction. The patient’s health care team must weigh any chance of addiction with improving the patient’s quality of life. Although there is a risk of addiction with certain narcotics, studies show that less than .01 percent of patients taking these medications become dependent. Pharmacists know what signs to look for to determine if a patient has an addiction problem, including early refills, frequently lost prescriptions, and constant requests for medications, and
• Communicating directly and often with the patient to ensure that the pain relief regimen is working and determine if there are any adverse effects.
“I think the most important message I can convey to patients who live with chronic pain is this: You don’t have to suffer in silence,” Martin said. “The many safe medication choices available today—combined with other physical and cognitive therapies—can offer tremendous relief. Your hospital and health-system pharmacist is your partner in achieving a better quality of life.”
For more information on pain management and the pharmacist’s important patient-care role, visit http://www.safemedication.com.
Return to Vidyya Medical News Service for 24 October 2005