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The Impact of the “Business” of Pain Medicine on Patient Care


Mary Lou Taylor, PhD, Medical College of Wisconsin Pain Management Clinic, 1155 N. Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa, WI 53188, USA. Tel: 414-955-7606; Fax: 414-955-6020; E-mail:


Objective.  The objective of this article was to examine the impact on patient care of the growing economic forces in pain medicine.

Discussion.  Chronic pain is a growing problem in the United States, as more people seek treatment than ever before. The practice of pain medicine is influenced by many market forces, including industry relationships with pain providers, lawmakers and insurance companies, direct-to-consumer advertising, insurance reimbursement patterns, and competition among health care systems and pain management providers. These economic factors can encourage innovation and efficiency and may increase access to pain treatment. However, they have also resulted in unrealistic expectations for pain relief, increased reliance on medications, widespread use of inadequately tested or unnecessary pain management diagnostic and treatment techniques, decreased use of some effective treatments, and lack of adequate pain education. Patients are undergoing more treatments, but there is little evidence of overall improved function.

Conclusions.  Following guidelines set out by the industry and pain medicine organizations, safeguarding against false or incomplete advertising, establishing easier methods for questioning advertising content, increasing the practice of evidence-based medicine, increasing government-sponsored research of definitive studies, and improving communication of efficacious treatment will facilitate the practice of ethical pain medicine and improve patient care.