Pain management barriers highlighted

A press conference held Jan. 28 in Washington, DC, highlighted the reality of inadequate pain management for as many as half of patients with chronic or cancer pain, and presented the results of a new poll on Americans' attitudes toward pain management. National media, including USA Today, covered the conference, which also explored the latest scientific advances in understanding the mechanism of pain, new drug therapies in the pipeline, and new mind/ body approaches to dealing with pain. The press conference was sponsored by the Mayday Fund of New York City, a private foundation dedicated to reduction of the physical and psychological toll of pain and its consequences.

According to a survey of 1,000 adults conducted last September for the Mayday Fund, one in six U.S. households has a member who suffers from severe chronic pain. The experience of pain is common and frequent, and a wide majority of Americans supports the use of high doses of pain medications such as morphine, if required, for treating severe pain.

Americans are now more accepting of the use of pain medications than they were in a 1993 survey on the same subject. However, surveyors found a discrepancy between what people say (they'd rather bear pain than take medications to relieve it) and what they do (taking either over-the-counter or prescription medications for their pain). Respondents also prefer non-drug alternatives when possible, and are often unaware of the range of options available for relieving pain.

The foundation also announced funding for six Mayday Scholars to pursue research projects aimed at removing legal barriers to pain management - especially those related to the use of controlled substances such as morphine - which may discourage physicians from providing adequate pain management. The scholars' studies will look at issues such as the impact of Medicaid fraud on pain treatment, the role of nurses in palliative care, and a comparison of pain relief in managed care vs. fee-for-service medicine. For information on these and other pain projects, contact the Mayday Fund, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10112. Telephone: (212) 649-5800.