Survey finds chronic pain sufferers unsatisfied with pain treatments

November 13, 2000

Chronic pain sufferers would spend more for treatment if they knew it would work

Stamford, CT - Nov. 14, 2000 - Patients in chronic pain are so dissatisfied with the efficacy of their prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) pain control medications that 78 percent are willing to try new treatments and 43 percent would spend more on a treatment if they knew it would work, according to a national U.S. survey commissioned by Partners Against Pain, an educational program sponsored by Purdue Pharma.

The survey of more than 1,000 people revealed that two thirds (66 percent) of the surveyed pain patients said their OTC pain medication is not completely or very effective. In addition, of those that rely on prescription drugs, 52 percent said the therapies are not completely effective or very effective.

Many surveyed patients reported suffering from pain for years, with 62 percent experiencing pain for at least five years. Even for those patients who say their pain is under control, it often has taken a long time to get relief. Some 43 percent of patients suffered for a year or more before they felt their pain was under control, and for 21 percent it took five years or longer.

"Pain is a serious public health problem for patients and the physicians who care for them. When inadequately treated, pain interferes with patients' quality of life," stated Kathleen Foley, M.D., professor and neurologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Partners Against Pain advisor.

Patients' satisfaction with their physicians closely relates to how successful the physicians are in treating them. Those not completely happy with their physician cited unsuccessful treatment (62 percent) as the main reason for dissatisfaction. Survey respondents expressed their dissatisfaction through comments such as "has not helped me" and "not doing as much to heal me as he/she could."

Partners Against Pain commissioned the survey of more than 1,000 people to identify the scope of pain management, including access and barriers to treatment within the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, pain costs Americans more than $100 billion each year in health care costs and lost productivity.

"The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations adopted standards that recognize the right of patients to appropriate pain assessment and management. Physicians and patients need to understand that pain can be managed," said Dr. Foley. "Physicians must determine the severity and frequency of their patients' pain experience to prescribe the most appropriate and effective pain management regimen. Pain treatment needs to be individualized."

Many of the surveyed patients believe their family is tired of hearing about their pain-related problems, such as quality of life issues, and feel that their family doesn't understand how their pain affects their life. Forty percent of patients surveyed are uncomfortable discussing their pain with family and friends and 37 percent say it can be isolating.

While many aspects of daily living are affected by pain, interference with sleeping ranked first with a majority of surveyed patients (56 percent). They also report that pain affects their overall mood, (51 percent), ability to drive (30 percent), ability to have sexual relations (28 percent) and ability to feed themselves (7 percent).

In their search for relief, many chronic pain patients reported extensive efforts. On average, they have seen three physicians for their pain and have taken 3.7 different kinds of prescription medications as part of their pain treatment. Those who suffer from severe or constant pain traveled far for help, with more than 20 percent of surveyed patients traveling 51 miles or more for treatment.

Patients reported generally receiving treatment first with non-prescription OTC medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) and physical therapy according to their needs. The range of prescription pain treatments includes NSAIDs, Cox 2 inhibitors, low dose anti-depressants, anti-convulsants and opioid analgesics.
Partners Against Pain is a public service program of Purdue Pharma intended to educate healthcare professionals and patients about appropriate pain management. For more information, visit the Partners Against Pain Web site at:


Editors Note: A news release, a fact sheet on the survey and information about Dr. Kathleen Foley of Sloan-Kettering, who is available to comment on chronic pain management, are included below.

A complete news kit with factsheets on different kinds of pain (back, cancer, diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis and post-operative) and case studies also is available.

To request a press kit, interview Dr. Foley or to pursue a related story, please contact: Shannon Walsh at 212-601-8128, or Beth Kaplan at 212-601-8443,

Dr. Kathleen M. Foley Bio

Dr. Kathleen M. Foley is an Attending Neurologist in the Pain & Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. She is also Professor of Neurology, Neuroscience, and Clinical Pharmacology at Cornell University Medical College, and Director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Cancer Pain Research and Education at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

She holds the Chair of the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Pain Research. She was Elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science for her national and international efforts in the treatment of patients with cancer pain. She is currently the Project Director of the Project on Death in America of the Open Society Institute.

Dr. Foley graduated from St. Johns University magna cum laude and received her medical degree from Cornell University Medical College, where she was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha and received the George S. Meister Prize in Pediatrics.

She completed her internship in medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and then spent one year in the laboratories of Drs. Danes and Bearn developing tissue culture assays for genetic disease. She completed her neurology residency in the Department of Neurology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center as a Special Fellow in Neuro-Oncology.

Dr. Foley has dedicated her career to the assessment and treatment of patients with pain, with a special focus on cancer patients with pain. She has defined epidemiology, classified the common causes of pain in cancer patients and defined the common pain syndromes that occur in this patient population. With her colleagues she has developed scientific guidelines for the treatment of cancer patients with analgesic drug therapy through clinical pharmacologic studies of the opioid drugs.

In 1981, the Pain Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center was created, with Dr. Foley as its Chief, and was the first such designated service in a cancer center in the United States.

In 1981, the Supportive Care Program was developed to provide continuity of care for cancer patients at home, providing, through a nurse-centered model, 24-hour supervision for dying patients with significant pain problems. Dr. Foley serves as its Medical Director.

Dr. Foley has received numerous awards and honors for her work. In 1992, she received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Cancer Society. She is the recipient of the Humanitarian Award from the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Louise & Allston Boyer Award in Clinical Science from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the John J. Bonica Award of the Eastern Pain Association and the National Board Award of the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She was awarded the Bristol-Myers Unrestricted Grant Program for Pain Research. She is a previous Rita Allen Scholar.

As an expert consultant to the World Health Organization Cancer & Palliative Care Unit, Dr. Foley chaired two expert committees that resulted in the publication of the two WHO monographs on Cancer Pain and Palliative Care.

Dr. Foley's efforts in these programs have led to the translation of the Cancer Pain Relief monograph to 17 languages and it has achieve broad distribution to over 144 member countries of WHO. In July of 1993, Dr. Foley organized a WHO committee meeting to develop a monograph on Cancer Pain Relief and Palliative Care for Children.

Dr. Foley's national and international efforts are focused on improving the care of cancer patients through research and training.

Porter Novelli

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