Balance, Pain

“Fibs lies and…..! Hold on, a Statistician picks up the ball on the US Prescription Drug crisis


“ProPublica fumbles painkiller story; Seattle Times scores touchdown”

ProPublica leads attack on painkillers by misusing statistics; But Seattle Times investigation uncovers really shocking numbers. 

Coming up to Superbowl, US football analogies are getting thicker.  But this blog headline is certainly attracting attention in pain circles.  Rebecca Goldin PhD and Cindy Merrick, a doctoral student working with her, have reviewed the statistics of the Prescription Opioid Crisis in a STATS blog.  STATS is a non-profit, non-partisan Statistical Assessment Service whose goals are to “correct the scientific misinformation in the media and in public policy resulting from bad science, politics, or a simple lack of information or knowledge; and to act as a resource for journalists and policy makers on major scientific issues and controversies.”

The Painpolicy blog as been challenged as to how we can question the CDC.  Dr Goldin, a mathematician who has no ties with pharmaceutical companies, does indeed question the CDC with its own data.

“ProPublica quotes the CDC’s director, Dr. Thomas Frieden saying, “Right now, the system is awash in opioids, dangerous drugs that got people hooked and keep them hooked.” But neither ProPublica or, for that matter, Dr. Frieden report what the actual CDC’s data says.

This STATS analysis is really worth a read. Yes we have a problem but lets look at the data carefully.   A careful analysis will allow a public health approach to the problem. The authors conclude:

As reported by the MMWR, the tripling of overdose deaths in this time period, from 1999-2008, tracks closely with the period of nearly quadrupled growth of OPR sales. By 2008, the annual overdose death rate from just prescription drugs had quadrupled from 1999. By 2009, the abuse treatment rate was nearly six times that of 1999.  On the other hand, the NSDUH found in 2008 that among people who used opioids for nonmedical purposes, only about 3 percent are dependent a year later.

Unfortunately, this sad, messy, uncomfortable problem is the new addiction reality – and we need the media to reflect this lest more harm be done by crackdown on physicians and pain treatment than good. In this, the Seattle Times series has made a truly vital contribution.”

The full STATS blog is available at
http://www.stats.org/stories/2012/attack_painkillers_misusing_statistics_jan31_12.html

About Pain policy & palliative care

Improving global pain relief by achieving balanced access to opioids worldwide

Discussion

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