European Health Policy Leaders Discuss a Wide Array of Initiatives and Best Practices to Address the Societal Impact of Pain

European Health Policy Leaders Discuss a Wide Array of Initiatives and Best Practices to Address the Societal Impact of Pain

Sreda, 05 Maj 2010,

Treated patients cost society less than untreated patients. Brussels, May 5th, 2010 – When it comes to the treatment of pain, the European healthcare community lacks broad consensus, understanding as well as common and effective appraisal tools, but there is broad agreement that treated patients cost national governments, economies and societies less than untreated patients do.

This is one of the important outcomes of the work of over 190 high-ranking decision makers from 28 European countries who met at the EFIC® Symposium in Brussels yesterday and today in an unprecedented discussion on the societal impact of pain.

The Symposium’s second day saw a lively debate on the presentation and discussion of interesting projects initiated in many countries to investigate the economic factors related to the burden of pain on patients and the society and suggest future innovations. Unfortunately the knowledge gained and management instruments developed locally are still too rarely shared amongst health care authorities and stakeholders throughout Europe. Today this began to change.

The discussions also underlined the need for a multidisciplinary approach to pain, including rehabilitation, and the need for better practical education and training for health care professional – general practitioners in particular – to improve health system co-ordination in many countries. The need for common definitions, tools and other evaluation systems that improve multidisciplinary and multinational analysis and comparisons and exchange of best practices also emerged.

Raising awareness of pain is an important issue within healthcare systems in Europe, but since the indirect costs of pain are usually not their direct responsibility, most participants affirmed that ongoing dialogue with national policy-makers can go a long way to reducing societal costs and improving quality of life for patients with chronic pain.

The European Federation of the Association for the Study of Pain, EFIC® organised the two-day international Symposium because it is profoundly convinced of the importance of discussing the societal impact of pain with authorities, insurances, budget holders and strategic decision makers within national health care systems.

Pain is one of the most frequent reasons to visit health professionals. Recent data show that many of pain patients are not adequately treated because pain is not fully recognised as an important health issue within the national Health Care Systems while being overwhelmed by the high societal costs related to pain (absenteeism, disability, assisted care, informal and family care, etc.)

“Pain is a significant health problem that affects millions of people in Europe,” declared Giustino Varrassi, EFIC’s President. “and it must be addressed not only in terms of direct costs to national health care systems but also in terms of the wider societal costs, costs on welfare systems and the negative impact on the economy”

The symposium also saw the active production of six workshops:

  • Prevalence and epidemiology This workshop found that there is both a high prevalence, (12 – 24%) and a big difference in numbers (neuropathic pain) indicating the need for shared and accepted measurement tools, that there is a need for specific pain and quality of life measurement tools and that therapy traditions still vary considerably from country to country (use of strong and weak opioids, paracetamol, NSAIDs)
  • Evidence in pain therapy from a societal perspective This workshop found that better education and implementation of pain guidelines is necessary, better tools for assessing the quality of life are needed and that manufacturers should take into account the needs of reimbursement authorities by comparing new medicines directly with the standard treatment on clinically relevant outcome measures
  • Impact of pain on the society This workshop found that pain has the greatest impact on quality of life irrespective of disease, that there is no common consensus of chronic pain across EU, that the high prevalence and impact of pain and its treatment should be recognised as a health quality indicator and that there is a need for education of providers of care and that treated patients cost less than untreated patients
  • Health economic models on pain treatment This workshop found that there is a need for more detailed epidemiological study on the prevalence of different chronic pain syndromes and that the education of the public and healthcare professionals is paramount.
  • Cost related to pain This workshop found that more relevant data need to be generated to enable decision-makers to increase funding for pain treatment and that more data need to be made available in such a way as to help decision-makers making decisions
  • Light House projects. This workshop found that it is necessary to raise awareness of the distress & cost within each health care system, that cross-border exchange of good practice can already start to make a fruitful contribution, that it is important to plan for the long term and that a dialogue has to be built with national policy makers.

In Europe’s five largest countries alone – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK – 51.8 million people are estimated to have recently suffered pain. This is just part of the picture painted by recent analysis of data from the 2008 National Health and Wellness Survey 53,524 patients and consumers representative of the 247.3 million people over eighteen years in age the largest five largest countries.

The societal impact of pain is profound; combining pain severity and frequency an estimated 21.8 million experienced daily pain and 8.5 million experiencing severe daily pain. This amounts to almost 9% of the population of Europe’s biggest five countries. The presence of severe daily pain has a significant impact on increased absenteeism from work (over 8 times as high as those not experiencing pain) and severe daily pain sufferers are almost a third less likely to even be in the workforce. Severe and frequent pain sufferers are also more likely to visit a physician (145.4%), the emergency room (194.1%) or be hospitalised (262.1%).

The symposium is generously sponsored by Grünenthal GmbH.

More information on the symposium can be found under: The program and abstract booklet can be downloaded under:

About EFIC

The European Federation of IASP Chapters (EFIC) is a multidisciplinary professional organization in the field of pain science and medicine, made up of the 30 European Chapters of IASP (International Association for the Study of Pain). Established in 1993, EFIC’s 30 constituent chapters represent 33 countries and close to 18.000 scientists, physicians, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and other healthcare professionals across Europe, who study pain and treat patients in pain.

About the SIP (“Societal Impact of Pain”) Symposium

EFIC® hosted over 150 strategic decision makers from 28 EU countries on pain-therapy-related issues and with responsibility for healthcare budgets from different European countries who met to discuss the factors affecting the costs of pain therapy, and benchmark indicators and future perspectives in workshops. The different views and solutions will support the building of a network on the issues related to the “Societal Impact of Pain” in the EU from the health care systems perspective.

Medical professionals, patients association, politicians and experts on economics and insurances will gather to contribute with their personal knowledge and working experiences. The symposium is structured in six workshops:

  • Prevalence and epidemiology
  • Evidence in pain therapy from a societal perspective
  • Impact of pain on the society
  • Health economic models on pain treatment
  • Cost related to pain
  • Light House projects.

Venue of the symposium:
Hotel Dolce La Hulpe
135, Chaussée de Bruxelles,
1310 La Hulpe – Belgium
Joshua Lawrence
EFIC Press Officer
Mobile (+39) 328 0553 470
skype: joshua.john.lawrence