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90% Have Trouble Filling Opioid Prescriptions

Every pain patient worries, from one month to the next, if their doctor will cut them off opioids or force taper them to such low levels that there is no pain relief.”

— Pain patient

LOS ANGELES, CA, US, February 1, 2024 / — Many pain patients feel abandoned by the U.S. healthcare system and say it’s increasingly difficult to find a doctor or obtain opioid analgesics, according to a large new survey by Pain News Network. Some patients have turned to other substances – both legal and illegal — for pain relief, and almost a third have considered suicide.

Nearly 3,000 pain patients or their caregivers participated in the online survey in the final weeks of 2023.

Over 90% of those with opioid prescriptions said they experienced delays or problems last year getting their prescriptions filled at a pharmacy, often due to shortages. Nearly 20% were unable to get their pain medication, even after contacting multiple pharmacies.

“I’ve given up hope of getting help for chronic, severe pain in this country. I’m planning to move to where I can receive humane treatment,” one patient said.

“Every pain patient worries, from one month to the next, if their doctor will cut them off opioids or force taper them to such low levels that there is NO pain relief,” another patient wrote.

One in five patients (20%) couldn’t find a doctor last year who was willing to treat their pain. About one in every four patients (27%) said they were tapered to a lower dose or taken off opioids.

“Every pain management office in my area were nothing but nightmares waiting to happen. And every person I talked to… were solely concerned with either getting people off of pain medication or reducing the amount of medicine by over half,” a patient wrote.

“Doctors I talked to said they felt like they had a gun to their head and that they are being watched, so they won’t prescribe or prescribe very little,” another patient said.

When asked what was the primary reason they could not get their opioid prescription filled, nearly 85% of respondents said they were told by a pharmacist that their medication was out of stock or on back order. Another 6% were told there was only enough to partially fill the prescription.

“Pharmacy said that there were shortages everywhere and had no idea when they would have the oxycodone that I need daily for my lower back pain,” a patient said.

“Pharmacist stated that the medication was on back order. They also said that they don’t know if they will ever get them back again,” another patient wrote.

Asked which pharmacy chain was the most difficult to get an opioid prescription filled, over half the patients surveyed selected either Walgreens (30%) or CVS (26%).

“I’ve used Walgreens for all of my medications for the past 15 years and within the past year or so I have started having issues almost every month with them filling my pain medication,” a patient wrote.

“CVS continually gives me a hard time to fill my Rx even though I have been on it for over 7 years. It is either out of stock, or they argue with me about filling it,” wrote another patient.

Other key findings from the survey show that many patients who were denied pain care adopted risky behaviors, such as hoarding opioids or going to the black market for pain relief.

• 32% of patients hoarded opioid medication
• 30% used cannabis for pain relief
• 29% considered suicide
• 14% used alcohol for pain relief
• 11% used kratom for pain relief
• 11% obtained prescription opioids from friend, family or black market
• 4% used heroin, illicit fentanyl or illegal substance for pain relief

The online survey was conducted from November 13 to December 31, 2023. A total of 2,961 U.S. pain patients or caregivers participated. Pain News Network is an independent, non-profit online news service that provides in-depth coverage about chronic pain and illness.

Patrick Anson
Pain News Network
+ +18189130101
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