Pain Doctor Says Drug Makers’ Main Interest is Money

Pain Doctor Says Drug Makers’ Main Interest is Money

Pharmaceutical companies make billions of dollars a year selling pain medications, but when it comes to finding and developing new innovations in pain management, one of the nation’s top pain physicians gives the industry an “F.”

“There is a lack of innovation in both the diagnosis and treatment of pain by industry,” said Dr. Andrew Charles, the head of the Headache Research and Treatment Program at UCLA.

Unlike some other medical specialties, Charles does not think industry is going to drive much needed change.

bigstock-Medicine--Money-347553“The pharmaceutical industry is interested in making money,” he said when asked a question by the National Pain Report at a recent community forum sponsored by KPCC Southern California Public Radio in Pasadena. “Until they have something that makes them money, you won’t see much because innovation is considered risky in the pain world.”

In other specialties, industry and physicians often work together. Take the specialty of ophthalmology for instance.

“The invention of the intraocular lens (IOL) and the thousands of iterations that have followed have come from doctors and companies working together,” said Russ Trenary, a medical device executive who spent most of his career in ophthalmology and now is CEO of an orthodontics device company.

“I can’t imagine where ophthalmology would be without that cooperation,” Trenary says.

But not so in the pain world, and physicians like Dr. Charles aren’t happy about it. He indicated that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other nonprofit groups lack the funding to drive badly needed innovation.

Dr. Andrew Charles

Dr. Andrew Charles

“We have to do better for our people,” he said.

There are over 100 million chronic pain sufferers in the United States and 40 million alone endure migraines, which is Dr. Charles’ specialty.

“It is a huge public problem because of the costs,” said Dr. Charles and he’s not just talking about money.

There are economic costs from lost productivity at work, not only from missing days, but the quality of work performed by pain sufferers. And of course, there are the costs to the health care system.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine estimates that the total incremental cost of health care due to pain reaches an estimated $635 billion in the United States alone.

“And there’s the cost of what is happening to the persons suffering from chronic pain and the social and emotional toll that takes on their family,” he added.

As one patient at the KPCC forum told the audience during a question and answer period, “No one should have to hurt this much”.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Frances Heneghan at 9:47 am

    I agree with John Quintner. Pharmaceutical companies have not supplied a cure for this long-term pain. Nor have they any incentive to do so, as they continue to make yearly profits of billions.
    This is a problem which needs multi-disciplinary approaches.
    The major mutinational pharmaceutical companies provide the major funding for research into methods of relieving pain, which gives them a major influence into treatment.

    Our Governments, unfortunately, are not prepared to invest in helping patients adopt other life-style disciplines to help cope with the problem. I do not blame Pain Management Professionals for attempting to alleviate pain with medication. They deal with such huge numbers of sufferers that they simply do not have the time to spend in researching alternative methods of helping patients live, and deal with, alternative approaches to pain relief.
    Alternative methods are generally much more expensive to use for pain relief.

    Patients themselves need to supply more information. on methods they find helpful, to their Pain Management Professionals. We, as those who suffer with this pain, have to remain consistent in their trying other methods and share our information with our Doctors. We must not rely totally on others to help with pain relief (although we are very glad of all help); we must take responsibility for how we live our lives, no matter what the problem.

    I have met many who suffer with intractable, long-term pain who unfortunately have not made the effort to become health literate. If we know our physiology and pathology, we can better understand our problem.
    Frances Heneghan

  2. Mark S. Barletta at 4:13 pm

    Any and all companies or out to make money, not just the pharmaceutical industry. For some painful diseases and conditions there is just no cure leaving these opioid medications the only alternative to relief of suffering. I don’t know of any pain patient that likes taking pain meds, personally I’m sick of them, but 23 years of suffering a collapsing spine what am I to do, suffer day after day.
    The fastest thing to pain relief of ongoing intractable pain is aggressive opiate pain management. I’ve tried everything under the sun and this is the only thing that makes me able to get through yet another day. Opioids have been used for thousands of years , I just don’t see any other way of making it by when the chronic pain in my body gets up to a 7, I cant move because of the severe pain. I hate the way my life turned out ,what can I do other than move forward to the next day the best way I know how.

  3. Greg P. Morrison at 11:48 pm

    Agree because they never tell what are the side effects of that drugs. because even minors can buy different kind of drugs which i think is wrong the best way to prevent drug abuse.
    there are different way to reduce pain like migraine if you are not to dependable in medicine.

  4. John Quintner at 6:00 pm

    The answer to the problem does not in my opinion reside with the failure of pharmaceutical companies to come up with “new innovations in pain management”. At least part of the blame lies with those of us working in Pain Medicine who have put our faith in prescription drugs as the panacea for pain management. This form of thinking is being perpetuated in the call for recognition of “chronic pain” as being a disease in its own right. Unfortunately, the pharmaceutical industry will not be able to deliver a cure for this new, and yet to be named, disease.