DIn the opinion of the Barmer health insurance company, the use of painkillers is often too careless. “The combination of supposedly harmless painkillers, in particular, can have fatal consequences,” Barmer state director Alfred Kindshofer said on Wednesday, referring to the 2023 drug report.
Medications like ibuprofen or diclofenac are also available without a prescription. According to Barmer, doctors often do not know that their patients are taking such preparations unless they report it themselves. The risks of self-medication should not be underestimated, especially when it comes to painkillers.
“The prescribed treatments are no longer manageable”
In order to track all medications as well as all side effects and interactions, Kindshofer called for the consistent and restrictive use of digital assistants in the provision of medications. He sees difficulties in particular when the people affected are not only treated by a doctor. “Therapy, which is usually prescribed by several doctors, is no longer manageable without digital support,” he warned.
According to Barmer, around 96,000 policyholders were prescribed drugs such as ibuprofen or diclofenac, known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, despite having heart failure. “Medical guidelines advise against this, because even short-term use of painkillers can significantly deteriorate the performance of the heart,” Kindshofer said. “Inadequate analgesic treatment can lead to both increased hospital stays and an increased risk of death. »
One in three people were prescribed painkillers in 2021
According to the Barmer Pain Atlas, around one in three adults in Bavaria without a tumor diagnosis was prescribed at least one pain reliever on an outpatient basis in 2021. Extrapolating, this corresponds to around three million people. For policyholders aged 80 and over, at least one in two people has received such a prescription. This can quickly lead to problems in very old people, for example if they suffer from kidney failure. This could lead to sudden kidney failure.
According to the Barmer Pain Atlas, 499 people per 10,000 population suffer from chronic pain. The national average is 571 people. The number of people affected nationally was lowest in the district of Dillingen an der Donau in Swabia, with 279 people per 10,000 inhabitants. According to the report, the highest figure nationwide is in Landshut, with 856 people per 10,000 inhabitants.
“Pain makes everyday life torture. If necessary, those affected need holistic, multimodal pain therapy,” explained Kindshofer. The newly established first chair of pain medicine at the University Hospital of Würzburg is a source of hope.
“We would like to work with all relevant disciplines to better understand the causes of pain disorders in order to develop personalized therapies,” said Professor Heike Rittner and called for training and further development for all disciplines. This also applies to the professionals on site. Three-quarters of patients suffering from pain should not have to travel more than an hour to get to therapy.