‘Chronic pain needs GP assessment’: NPS MedicineWise


Australians experiencing pain for longer than three months to visit their GP, says the organisation, as it could be neuropathic pain

Not-for-profit independent organisation NPS MedicineWise is encouraging Australians who suffer pain for longer than three months to visit their GP to have their condition checked.

The advice follows the organisation’s launch of a new visiting program on neuropathic pain – a type of chronic pain experienced by one in 20 Australians.

Dr Andrew Boyden, medical advisor with NPS MedicineWise says, “If pain continues for more than three months it becomes a form of chronic pain.

“Working out if neuropathic pain is behind the patient’s discomfort will help them to receive the best treatment.

“This educational visiting program aims to help GPs with the often difficult task of distinguishing neuropathic pain from other pain conditions.”

People with neuropathic pain, sometimes known as ‘nerve pain’, can experience shooting, stabbing or burning sensations.

This is caused by damage or injury to nerves from conditions such as shingles, diabetes and nerve root compression around the spine.

The visiting program reminds GPs, and in turn their patients, that finding medicines to provide pain relief for chronic conditions can be difficult.

All medicines indicated for treating neuropathic pain are limited in their efficacy and there is significant variation between individuals and the level of pain relief they receive from their use, says NPS MedicineWise.

“The program reminds health professionals that in suitable patients, amitriptyline remains a first-line option according to Australian and international guidelines,” says Dr Boyden.

“This can provide a point for discussion between the patient and their doctor around optimal treatment for the pain.

“Apart from medication use, we emphasise the need to take a broad approach to pain management, suggesting physical activity and psychological techniques such as cognitive behavioural therapy and meditation. This can help patients to understand and deal more easily with their condition.”

And what about pharmacists and the upcoming Pain MedsCheck trial?

NPS MedicineWise says its position is that GPs should still be the first port of call for chronic pain.

An NPS MedicineWise spokesperson said, “The main message of our Neuropathic Pain program for everyday Australians is that if you have suffered with pain for over three months, it’s important to have your pain assessed by a GP.

“This message complements advice and communication from pharmacists that help is available for consumers who have been struggling to manage ongoing pain.”

Meanwhile the Pain MedsCheck trial will build on the existing MedsCheck and Diabetes MedsCheck programs delivered through community pharmacies.

The service will be targeted at patients suffering from chronic pain for three months or longer who are taking medication for their pain and identified as either experiencing self-management or dependency issues, explains the Pharmacy Guild.

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