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Monday, February 11, 2013

Americans Consume the Majority of Pain Medication

Americans make up 5 percent of the world’s population yet consume about 80 percent of all prescription pain medication, CNN notes. In England doctors prescribe fewer opioids, which has helped their country avoid the prescription drug epidemic seen in the United States. Doctors in the U.K. encourage their patients do engage in physiotherapy, acupuncture and massage to treat pain.

“We have to protect the patient,” London pharmacist Howard Silver told CNN. He noted a moderate overdose of Tylenol can cause liver damage and even death. He called a bottle of 400 acetaminophen pills, readily available in U.S. drugstores, “a bottle of death.”

In order for one to obtain painkillers in the U.K., patients must be referred to pain clinics by their primary care doctor. On average, the process takes 18 weeks for a patient to be referred to the long-term pain clinic at London’s Royal Free Hospital. However, in extreme cases, clinic founder Dr. Anthony Ordman may be able to see patients as soon as the next day.

British Pain Society guidelines state, “In most situations, for most patients and most pains, opioids should not be considered as first-choice treatment.”

Opioids are not the only painkillers that are tightly restricted in the U.K. The largest bottle of ibuprofen or acetaminophen on a pharmacy shelf contains only 16 pills. With a pharmacist’s approval, a person can buy up to 32 pills.

American doctors should follow suit, there is no question the first line of defense in the prescription drug epidemic is one’s physician. We need to look to alternative forms of pain management if we are ever going get control of the problem we face.
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