Don’t Blame CDC for Poor Pain Care

By David Becker, Guest Columnist

Doctors have been undertreating and mistreating people in pain long before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started recommending guidelines for opioids. Doctors have been doing such since at least the 1970’s.

The CDC doesn't tell doctors to provide half the pain care to blacks and Latinos that white folks obtain -- they do that all by themselves.

The CDC doesn't tell doctors to misdiagnose migraines, interstitial cystitis, RSD, fibromyalgia, and Lyme disease -- doctors do that all by themselves.

The CDC doesn’t tell doctors to tell elderly people that they should be in pain or that children’s pain is inconsequential -- they do that all by themselves.

The CDC doesn't tell pain specialists to ignore marijuana or triptolides or triterpenes or deoxy glucose or intrathecal hydrogen or stem cell therapy for pain -- doctors do that all by themselves.

Doctors were sold on the idea of using opioids for pain because pain specialists were connected to opioid manufacturers, as Sen. Grassley’s Finance Committee ascertained.

What they could have and should have done is require all doctors to have adequate education in pain care and make the best use of all pain treatments for people in pain. Doctors were so averse to having education in pain care that even after the FDA required drug manufacturers to provide free education on opioids, less than 20% of doctors obtained such.

Once doctors have complete education in pain care, then they can be held to a higher standard, and obviously they are opposed to such. Even the pain specialty organizations that allegedly care so much about pain patients didn't support legislation in New York state requiring doctors to have education in pain care.

Poor pain care in any nation is not merely a function of providing opioids or not. That is the reductionist thinking medicine and pharmaceutical companies have promoted. And how often do you see those same organizations promote the use of marijuana or the full use of all resources to treat pain? How often do they even mention stem cell therapies or stacked therapies or treat to target?

The CDC is essentially no different than the FDA, National Institutes of Health or pain specialty organizations -- or the 80 so-called experts that created the National Pain Strategy to essentially promote a simplistic one-size fits all approach. They care little for the input or needs of individuals in pain.

Until individuals in pain have more rights and a greater say over their care, doctors, pain specialists and the CDC will continue to impose their visionless plans on the public and patients.

Too many individuals in pain remain stuck in a Kafkaesque theater of the absurd pain care system with big brother calling the shots. Frankly, to accuse the CDC of being the bad guy misses the fact that too many other organizations in the health care system and in government have done a poor job of caring for individuals in pain.

Without the CDC or with the CDC, pain care will remain poor until real reforms are made in the whole pain care system.

David Becker is a social worker, patient advocate and political activist in New York.

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.