HealthDay News — Chronic pain conditions pose a substantial utilization burden on the health care system, according to a study published in Pain Practice.

Peter W. Park, PhD, from Pfizer Inc. in New York City, and colleagues analyzed electronic medical records and health claims data from the Henry Ford Health System to determine health care resource utilization and costs for patients with 24 chronic pain conditions (January to December 2010).

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Based upon 12,165 patients, the researchers found that aside from pharmacy, outpatient visits were the most used resource, with a mean 18.8 visits per patient for the post-index period. Specialty visits accounted for 59.0% of outpatient visits. A mean of 5.2 discrete imaging tests were utilized per patient. Opioids were the most commonly prescribed medication (38.7%). For all conditions, the total annual direct costs were $386 million ($31,692 per patient; a 40% increase from the pre-index). Over 14% of total costs were from pharmacy costs, but outpatient visits were the primary cost driver.

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“This type of research supports integrated delivery systems as a source for assessing opportunities to improve patient outcomes and lower the costs for chronic pain patients,” the authors wrote.

Several authors are employees of Pfizer, the sponsor of the study.


Park P, Dryer R, Hegeman-Dingle R et al. Cost Burden of Chronic Pain Patients in a Large Integrated Delivery System in the United States. Pain Pract. 2015:n/a-n/a. doi:10.1111/papr.12357.