Politics, Money, and the Pain Care Industry

As our nation tries to formulate a comprehensive and effective pain care policy, organizational interests have co-opted pain patients and quickly banded together to form what’s essentially a cartel to influence pain policy through the National Pain Strategy (NPS).

From their press release of April 7, 2015:

The Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force, a new coalition of seventeen consumer organizations and advocacy groups created specifically to promote, support and monitor the implementation of the NPS, is calling for HHS to proactively develop a federal oversight body and start the budgeting process now.”

They are clearly suggesting themselves as this new “federal oversight body” and naturally want the money to start flowing as soon as possible. Do we really need yet another bureaucratic organization between us and our pain relief? 

Their claim to be patient advocates rings hollow, considering the name they have chosen:

The *Consumer* Pain Advocacy Task Force

I object to being called a “consumer” of pain care.  If I were a consumer, I would have choices. I could decide for myself what treatments and medications to use, and then compare prices to find the best value for my money. Consumers are customers, who’s every whim is catered to by businesses.

I am not a consumer.
I am a patient who needs medical care.

Envisioning patients as consumers makes it perfectly clear where the interests of this organization lie. I cannot imagine any pain patients still feel like consumers in this system, since our choices have been deliberately legislated away.

The appearance of legitimately speaking for pain patients gives this umbrella organization even more influence than blatant commercial entities, like drug and testing companies.

The CPATF endorses the NPS, despite the burden it places on pain patients and its perverse financial incentives.

And who could blame them?

Current policies have created a ridiculously lucrative business opportunity with legislatively guaranteed customers (just like the problematic Recovery Industry). Because chronic pain patients are lifelong “customers” of the Pain Care Industry, the financial opportunities are just irresistible.

Under constant threat of losing access to our pain medications, we have no choice but to use the “services” these businesses offer, for instance, drug-testing.

If every pain patient is forced to see their pain care “provider” to take a drug-test “product” 12 times a year for life, the potential for obscene profits is obvious.

But this profit comes at the expense of pain patients, because many insurance companies won’t pay for all these tests, rightfully claiming they aren’t medically necessary.

There are just too many ways to make money from our misery:

  • newer and far more expensive “abuse-resistant” opioid pills
  • drug-testing, both in-office and the more expensive chromatography-mass-spectrometry tests.
  • patient monitoring (Promoting Continuous Monitoring of Patients on Opioids)
  • new non-opioid medications that claim to work, but often don’t
  • complementary therapies, whether they are appropriate for our condition or not
  • various injections, which have not been scientifically proven effective
  • surgeries that leave us further damaged, (which happens so often there’s an official diagnosis for “Failed Back Surgery Syndrome”)

Yet, if we refuse any of these treatments for any reason (including that we cannot afford them), we are considered non-compliant and have our opiates taken away.

Additionally, the NPS segregates patients by income: only the well-to-do can afford expensive drug tests and doctors’ visits 12 times a year for life.  Even with insurance, the co-pays for such frequent services become prohibitive; tests can cost a patient up to $2500.

By mandating the use of commercial business “products”, like drug testing or patient monitoring, the NPS leaves us defenseless against pillage, plunder, and financial rape by:

  • drug companies, which are raising prices relentlessly, sometimes 300% annually even for decades-old generic medications.
  • PROP, a well-financed group of “Interventional Pain Specialists” campaigning against the use of opioids. Instead, they promote:
    • surgeries
    • injections
    • implants
  • New non-medical “medical service” corporations, eager to offer:
    • drug testing
    • patient screening
    • patient monitoring

A multitude of these new businesses are forming to address all imaginable aspects of our pain care, which is now ruled by non-medical commercial and political interests, not our doctors.

It’s like a gold rush on Wall Street, as more and more players show up for a piece of the pain care pie.


Task Force Members:

6 thoughts on “Politics, Money, and the Pain Care Industry

  1. Payne Hertz

    Absolutely brilliant article! Really sums it all up in one neat package. If there is one article Americans need to read to understand what they are up against if they ever need pain treatment, it is this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      I’m very pleased that you think I’ve made an effective argument.

      While there was much talk about getting input from pain patients and the public, I’m starting to believe it’s just a smokescreen for manipulations going on behind the scenes.

      We are being placated, not served.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. painkills2

    It’s interesting to search these groups in the Nonprofit Explorer on ProPublica. You do a search for “chronic pain,” and you get a total of 4 companies. A search for National Patient Advocate Foundation shows a company with over $2 million in revenue for 2012, and C-Change has over $3 million, while other “nonprofits” have a lot less.

    There is no listing for the State Pain Policy Advocacy Network, Chronic Pain Research Alliance, The Pain Community, National Fibromyalgia Chronic Pain Association, and Global Healthy Living Foundation. (I didn’t do a search for all of them.) They look like front groups to me, pretending to be concerned about pain patients.

    And I found it interesting that many of these companies are based in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      I was secretly hoping to be proven wrong, that someone would find facts to counter my arguments, so I’m surprised you found supporting evidence so quickly.

      I don’t want to be cynical, but something didn’t sound right to me about all the “awareness” campaigns and the increasing number of pain organizations springing up even as our access to pain relief is being further restricted. None of those organizations has accomplished a darn thing!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. painkills2

        Well, that’s not completely true. I am familiar with the TMJ Association. They’ve been around a long time and have always worked toward getting more attention for TMJ. Back in the 1990s, they were able to have a TMJ Awareness Month declared with congressional support, although like many awareness campaigns, it hasn’t really gone anywhere. Unfortunately, they’re hampered by insufficient funding and not much political clout. I suspect part of the reason for that is because the group is run by a woman, but I can’t be sure.


  3. Pingback: So, What IS Pain Management? | EDS Info (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

Other thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.