Back pain: a cost of 9,000 million for the health system and a high risk of becoming chronic if it is not addressed in its acute phase

Madrid, April 25, 2023.- Pain is a clinical reality with which many people live: 80% of the population will experience some episode of pain throughout their lives. In half of the cases, the pain is lumbar, and of these, between 5% and 20% become chronic. The new report The costs of the chronification of low back and cervical pain, promoted by the General Council of Official Colleges of Physicians (CGCOM), with the support of the Foundation for the Training of the Council (FFOMC) and the sponsorship of Zambon laboratories, highlights the high cost generated by lumbar and cervical pain, as well as the importance of influencing its acute phase to reduce its economic impact and its chronification.

The publication was presented today in Madrid at an event that included the interventions of Dr. José María Rodríguez Vicente, Secretary of the General Council of Official Medical Associations (CGCOM) and General Coordinator of the PAS Program; Elena Fernández Martínez, Technical Coordinator of the Foundation for Training (FFOMC); Pedro Novás Rodríguez, Economist in charge of preparing the report; and Ana Suárez, Zambon Medical Advisor.

As the report puts it, the costs of pain are much higher than they appear. In the case of low back pain, the latest published data established that the costs amounted to almost 9,000 million euros, 0.68% of Spanish GDP. This places the costs of low back pain at an amount comparable to those of other prevalent pathologies, such as cardiovascular diseases or cancer.

As the publication concludes, this demonstrates the importance of addressing pain as an early economic, social and public health problem, already in its acute phase. In this sense, Pedro Novás, Economist in charge of the report, stated: “the data show that the economic impact of pain could be reduced if the approach to its acute phase is improved, since it would reduce cases of chronic pain and therefore the costs linked to it.”

Low back pain: millions of euros in direct and indirect costs

The report has addressed both the direct and indirect costs of pain and, specifically, low back pain. In this type of pain, the direct costs, derived from factors such as clinical practice, amount to 2,280 million euros, of which 948 million result from visits to the doctor. In fact, more than 2 million annual consultations in primary care are due to pain.

However, the indirect costs are higher and, in the case of low back pain, they account for almost 75% of the total. These costs include the effects derived from pain in the lives of patients, such as loss of productivity, absenteeism from work or risks to mental health. For example, the average number of working days lost due to low back pain is 52 million, which implies a cost of 2,500 million euros. Low back pain also has an impact on indirect costs due to psychological effects since, once it becomes chronic, patients are four times more likely to develop depression or anxiety and at least twice the risk of suicide than people without chronic pain.

Pain is undertreated: one of the keys

Among the reasons behind the high costs of pain and its chronicity, the report highlights that pain is undertreated: 29% of Spaniards consider that they do not receive adequate treatment and the average time to achieve it is 1.6 years. This delay in treatment already occurs in the emergency room, where 40% of patients do not receive treatment. The fact that pain is undertreated directly influences the risk of chronic pain and, therefore, the cost of pain.

The Guidelines for Action and Follow-up Guidelines (PAS) in acute cervical and lumbar pain, published in 2022, focused on some treatment pathways to deal with pain in its acute phase and reduce the risk of chronic pain. The PAS Guide described the importance of treating acute pain and recommended NSAIDs as first-line treatments for acute low back pain and neck pain due to their anti-inflammatory and analgesic action. Among the non-selective NSAIDs, the role of naproxen, ibuprofen, and the associations of Ibuprofen with salts such as L-arginine that favor the rapid absorption of Ibuprofen stand out due to their good safety and efficacy profile.

The objective of the PAS Guide and of this new report is to promote practice centered on the patient and not on the disease in order to improve care follow-up and prevent the chronification of pain, emphasizing the selection of appropriate medications to provide pain relief. early.

Sobre Zambon

Zambon is a pharmaceutical company that markets products for various therapeutic areas, including pain. In this area, Zambon is committed to continuous innovation through advances such as the combination of ibuprofen with arginine, which increases the speed of absorption of ibuprofen.

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