Of all symptoms of disease, pain is the most common and most feared. Having so many causes, it is the most misunderstood – always a boon to salesman of pain relief, from primitive witchdoctors and medieval indulgence sellers to modern drug makers. They claim their products cure conditions such as colds and ankle sprains that recover quickly with no treatment except rest. Some also claim narcotics are safe for chronic pain when in truth the dangers of addiction have been well known for centuries. Our latest example is OxyContin, a cousin of heroin, falsely advertised to earn its maker $35 billion and $13 billion for the company’s private owners. The result has been a national epidemic that has killed over 200,000 people. An American baby is now born addicted every half hour. Evidence of the epidemic was recognized by the manufacturer and by the Food and Drug Administration ten years ago, but only recently have state agencies limited most prescriptions from 90 to 6 pills. Medical and dental education are partly at fault, but the problem does not exist in England where drug adverting is prohibited and the Cochrane Collaboration critically measures outcomes of treatments.
The Impact of Low Back Pain on our Healthcare System
America also has an epidemic of procedures for low back pain. In 2014, Medicare paid almost $500 million to chiropractors for spine manipulations that in only one of seven trials were more effective than no treatment. Studies have shown that most MRI abnormalities are not causes of pain. A review by the American Health and Research Quarterly found no evidence that epidural steroid injections were effective in relieving pain. Lumbar fusions proved only 40% effective while the numbers performed between 1993 and 2004 grew from 61,000 to 465,000 per year. These are nearly impossible to regulate because instrument makers and orthopedic surgeons promise better results. The truth is that most acute low back pain recovers spontaneously, and chronic back pain does best with alternative activities, physical therapy, posture and weight control.
In a free country, citizens should have the rights to take any medicine they want and to have any surgical procedure available to them so long as their fellow citizens are not taxed to pay for unnecessary and ineffective treatments. Our plan does not require us to pay, as we do now, for our neighbors’ ineffective treatments.