Millions of chronic pain patients in Europe continue to suffer on a daily basis, even after trying several different treatment therapies, according to a new report by Boston Scientific Corporation. In “The Painful Truth Survey”of over 1,000 Europeans with chronic pain, more than a third said they continue to wrestle with regular daily tasks, including their ability to care for their children.
An estimated 95 million Europeans suffer from chronic pain, or about one in five adults. Two out of three patients surveyed in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK say they are in pain more than 12 hours a day. Nearly a third believe they have been poorly informed about their treatment options.
“For many patients, conventional medication or surgery is not the answer and we need to be exploring how best to use innovative and cost-effective technologies as they emerge,” said Dr. Simon Thomson, Consultant in Pain Medicine and Neuromodulation at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, United Kingdom.
The findings also reveal that one fifth of the survey respondents have been diagnosed with chronic pain that may be managed with modern treatment options, such as spinal cord stimulation (SCS). However, in spite of widespread availability of SCS throughout Europe, most chronic pain sufferers were unaware of this treatment option. Boston Scientific (NYSE: BSX) is a leading manufacturer of spinal cord stimulators, which are implanted along the spine and send small electrical pulses that “trick” the brain into feeling pain as a soothing or tingling sensation.
“Many patients see their doctor several times before they are referred on to a specialist and this can be very frustrating for someone who is living with constant pain on a day to day basis,” said Harry Kletzko, vice president of the German Pain League. “Pain really impacts how you live your life, even with simple tasks such as getting out of bed, which can become extremely difficult. Because chronic pain is so hard to describe, it’s hard for someone who is not experiencing it to actually understand where the pain is and how it affects patients.”
Chronic pain is one of the leading reasons for Europeans to see a doctor. People with chronic pain visit a healthcare provider an average of 26 times a year, double the average number of visits made by European adults.
“Although the majority of chronic pain sufferers turn to their doctor for an initial consultation, over a fifth of those surveyed report feeling frustrated after their first conversation and almost a quarter (24%) say their doctor was dismissive of their symptoms or not proactive in helping them. Only one in five respondents came away from the conversation feeling hopeful about their chronic pain,” according to the Painful Truth report.
About a third of sufferers say their chronic pain has lowered their household income by about a third. As a result of lost productivity, welfare payments, and social security disability payments, chronic pain costs the European healthcare systems as much as 300 billion Euro ($405 billion in U.S. dollars) a year.
Chronic pain patients around the world have poor access to pain treatment. A survey in released 2011, called the “Global State of Pain Treatment: Access to Palliative Care as a Human Right,” found that pain relieving drugs and palliative care are so poorly available in some parts of the world that tens of millions of people – including 6.5 million terminal cancer and HIV patients – suffer needlessly.
The Painful Truth survey was sponsored by Boston Scientific and supported by third party groups, including Action on Pain UK, the Spanish Pain Association, and the German Pain League.