Pain and opioid use overloading health system: Report

Morgan Liotta

21/06/2018 1:33:28 PM

Pain and opioid use are major issues burdening the Australian healthcare system, latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare research has revealed.

Opioid use and pain levels continue to rise in Australia, the latest AIHW report discloses.
Opioid use and pain levels continue to rise in Australia, the latest AIHW report discloses.

The latest findings from the biennial report of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) on the health of Australians, Australia’s health 2018, uncover that up to nine out of 10 people experienced physical pain in the four weeks before the report was released.
This is an increase from 68% experiencing pain at the same time two years ago.
The two main conditions contributing to physical pain are back pain and arthritis, with a reported 16% of people experiencing back pain in 2014–15.
The AIHW estimates that 6.9 million people are living with a musculoskeletal condition, which highlights the significance of the pain burden and goes a long way in explaining why Australians are using more analgesics – namely opioids.
‘Opioid prescribing is on the rise despite their limitations in managing chronic pain – because many people have few alternatives,’ Painaustralia Chief Executive Officer Carol Bennett said.
Ms Bennett said the figures presented in the AIHW report ‘are alarming and mean we can no longer afford to ignore the issue of pain in this country’.
‘This report makes a clear case for investment and support to prevent and manage chronic pain conditions,’ she said.
Opioid prescribing rose by 24% between 2010–11 and 2014–15, from 369 to 456 prescriptions per 1000 population, and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data shows that 11.1 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed in 2014–15.
Oxycodone (and oxycodone/naloxone) accounted for one in three (34%) opioids prescribed in 2014–15, with prescriptions increasing by 68% over the period (from 2.3 million to 3.8 million). Codeine prescriptions were the second most common opioid prescription in 2014–15, accounting for almost one in four (23%).
Pain management is one of two main reasons opioids are prescribed, according to the AIHW report.
The report also shows that GPs play a significant role in pain management and opioid prescribing, with 406,000 visits made to a GP over an average day.
One in five GP consultations involves a patient with chronic pain – indicating that 81,200 Australians are visiting their GP every day for a pain-related issue.
‘Millions of Australians are affected by chronic pain and tens of thousands of us with pain are looking for help from our GPs every day,’ Ms Bennett said.
‘Pain is putting enormous pressure on our health system, but this can be minimised with a strategic national plan that prioritises education and awareness for consumers and health professionals, and makes pain care accessible and affordable.’
Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt recently announced funding for Painaustralia to develop a national action plan to address chronic pain.

AIHW chronic pain opioids pain pain management painaustralia

newsGP weekly poll When is your next available patient appointment?


Login to comment