Narcotics Legislation First Step, Must Now Address Pain

TORONTO (September 15, 2010) - ACTION Ontario, a non-profit group advocating on behalf of chronic pain sufferers, applauds the provincial government's Narcotics Safety and Awareness bill and encourages the government to take the next step and also address the underlying issue of pain with a comprehensive strategy.

"As a member of the province's narcotics advisory panel, I know how important it is that we address the growing narcotics problem in this province," said Dr. Angela Mailis-Gagnon, chair of ACTION Ontario and founder and director of the Comprehensive Pain Program at the Toronto Western Hospital. "However, we must not overlook that the root of the opioid public health crisis lies in the poor diagnosis and management of chronic pain. We need to embark on a comprehensive pain strategy in order to fully address the opioid crisis and to better meet the needs of the millions of Ontarians who suffer from chronic pain."

Currently, patients with chronic pain face a disjointed system of care and varying levels of knowledge from healthcare practitioners on how to diagnose and effectively treat pain.

"My clinic is overwhelmed by patients who come to me on high doses of narcotics and should not be. They've been prescribed these drugs because their physicians have not had the appropriate pain training, or because certain non-opioid medications or non-pharmacological therapies are not covered by the current system. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the other side of the problem, as thousands of Ontarians, particularly the elderly, who could benefit from appropriate doses of opioids, have no access to these drugs as physicians refuse to prescribe them. The problem here is loss of balance," said Dr. Mailis-Gagnon.

"Each pain patient and situation is unique in its own right, yet somehow we are all lumped together," said Janice Frampton, who has struggled with debilitating pain her entire life and is co-chair of ACTION's patient advocacy arm. "Something must be done to rectify this situation in the form of education and a comprehensive pain strategy or there will be more addiction, more social upheaval and more strain on our healthcare system."

ACTION Ontario, a non-profit organization comprised of doctors, researchers, other health-care professionals and patients, advocates on behalf of neuropathic pain sufferers. Neuropathic pain is a particularly debilitating form of chronic pain. ACTION Ontario is committed to increasing awareness about the cost of neuropathic pain and to seeing improvements in the diagnosis and care of people with neuropathic pain. For more information, please visit www.actionontario.ca.

For more information, please contact:
laura.greer@hillandknowlton.ca
Laura Greer
Hill & Knowlton Canada
(416) 413-4765 (office)
(416) 518-6032 (cell)

Comprehensive Pain Strategy Needed to Address Misuse of Narcotics in Ontario

TORONTO (August 27, 2010) - ACTION Ontario, a non-profit group advocating on behalf of chronic pain sufferers, welcomes the announcement of a provincial narcotics strategy and encourages the government to act on the underlying issue of chronic pain.

"The government's strategy is a good first step in tackling the narcotics issue, but we also need to address the underlying problem of how we treat chronic pain in this province," said Dr. Angela Mailis-Gagnon, the chair of ACTION Ontario and founder and director of the Comprehensive Pain Program at the Toronto Western Hospital. Dr. Mailis-Gagnon is also a member of the provincial narcotic advisory panel, as well as the National Opioid Use Guideline Group. "We need a comprehensive strategy that addresses how pain is diagnosed and managed, including access to a variety treatment options."

Janice Frampton, a 53-year-old Pickering resident and co-chair of ACTION's patient advocacy arm, has struggled with debilitating pain her entire life from a congenital condition called Tethered Spinal Cord Syndrome. "I know from my own experience people will take whatever they need to, and in increasing quantities, to try and escape their pain. I drank heavily in an attempt to manage my pain," said Frampton. "Finally, after being properly diagnosed and treated, I am able to manage my pain and my life appropriately."

"We need to look at the bigger picture. Medications and treatments are only as good as the physicians who prescribe them and the knowledge of the patients who receive them. This cycle of overprescribing narcotics for chronic pain will continue until patients choose to educate themselves as I did. There is no cookie cutter approach to treating pain. A comprehensive pain strategy is key to addressing this complex problem."

Other Canadian provinces, like Alberta, Quebec and Nova Scotia, have successfully implemented pain strategies that could help inform the Ontario experience. Chronic pain is an escalating health problem affecting 20-30% of Canadians and it has been estimated that chronic pain costs the Canadian economy approximately $6 billion a year.

ACTION Ontario, a non-profit organization comprised of doctors, researchers, other health-care professionals and patients, advocates on behalf of neuropathic pain sufferers. Neuropathic pain is a particularly debilitating form of chronic pain. ACTION Ontario is committed to increasing awareness about the cost of neuropathic pain and to seeing improvements in the diagnosis and care of people with neuropathic pain. For more information, please visit www.actionontario.ca.

For more information, please contact:
laura.greer@hillandknowlton.ca
Laura Greer
Hill & Knowlton Canada
(416) 413-4765 (office)
(416) 518-6032 (cell)