Feb 15 2011 Posted: 00:00 GMT
Researchers at NUI Galway's School of Psychology and Centre for Pain Research have joined forces with health economists at Trinity College Dublin to establish the economic costs of chronic pain in Ireland. As part of the HRB and HSE funded PRIME Study (Prevalence, Impact and Cost of Chronic Non-Cancer Pain in Ireland), the researchers carried out in-depth interviews with 140 chronic pain patients to find out about direct costs such as medical treatments and indirect costs such as lost work productivity. Research Psychologist at NUI Galway, Miriam Raftery, said "we found that the average cost per chronic pain patient was €5,665 per year across all grades of pain severity". However, the annual costs increased according to the severity of pain, rising to €10,454 per patient for those with the highest level of pain and disability. A relatively small proportion of patients with the most severe level of pain accounted for a disproportionately large portion of the costs. Inpatient hospital treatment accounted for the highest proportion of overall costs. Professor of Health Policy and Management, Charles Normand and Research Assistant, Padhraig Ryan of the Centre for Health Policy and Management at Trinity College explained that "based on a 36% prevalence of chronic pain in Ireland, the total cost of chronic pain for all individuals aged 20 and above was estimated at €4.76 billion per year, or 2.55% of Irish GDP in 2008". The chief investigator of the PRIME study at NUI Galway, Dr. Brian McGuire suggested that "improved services for people in the early stages of chronic pain could reduce the long-term use of health services and increase the likelihood of getting back to paid work". He suggests this could reduce the sizeable economic burden of chronic pain in Ireland. The Irish research is consistent with data from other countries showing that chronic pain ranks as one of the most costly health conditions.