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England split by pain divide

Wednesday September 12th, 2018

England suffers a clear North-South geographical split in rates of chronic pain, according to an analysis published today.

Dr Adam Todd of Newcastle University, UK, and colleagues also found a North-South divide in use of potentially addictive opioid drugs.

The team say that: "Chronic pain is a worldwide problem, and the burden it places on our society is increasing." They add that, to manage chronic pain, some treatment strategies rely on the use of opioid analgesics, "although there are very few studies to support their long-term effectiveness".

The study found regional inequalities in rates of chronic pain prevalence, pain intensity and opioid, from figures on 5,711 people in the Health Survey for England 2011.

'The North' covered The North East, North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber regions. 'The South' covered London, East of England, West Midlands, East Midlands, South East, and South West regions.

Rates of chronic pain were higher in the North than the South - 37 per cent versus 35 per cent. Opioid use was also higher in the North: 2.5 per cent versus 1.7 per cent.

In today's (12 September) BMJ Open they write: "People in the North of England more likely to have 'severely limiting' or 'moderately limiting' chronic pain." Furthermore, "The intensity of chronic pain was significantly and positively associated with the use of opioid analgesics."

The experts state that more guidance is needed to support prescribers in the management of chronic pain. "To develop future strategies going forward, and avoid a potential 'opioid epidemic', as observed in the USA, it is important that consideration is given to other ways of managing chronic pain," they conclude.

Todd, A. et al. The Pain Divide: a cross-sectional analysis of chronic pain prevalence, pain intensity and opioid utilisation in England. BMJ Open 12 September 2018; doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023391

http://bmjopen.bmj.com/lookup/doi/10.1136/bmjopen-2018-023391

Tags: Pain Relief | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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