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J Pain Symptom Manage. 1997 Sep;14(3 Suppl):S36-48.

Clinical realities and economic considerations: economics of intrathecal therapy.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.


The estimated annual cost of medical management of chronic back pain is $25 billion. Such management is often ineffective and overly costly. Most physicians who have employed intrathecal pain therapy attest to its efficacy in the management of intractable chronic pain. However, few economic analyses are available to evaluate the cost effectiveness of different modalities and to aid in clinical decision making and third-party reimbursement policies. Current analyses tend to focus on short-term cost-benefit measurements and to ignore variables such as quality of life and patient functioning. This bias has impaired the ability of payers to make appropriate decisions regarding the safety, cost effectiveness, and efficacy of intrathecal pain therapy in noncancer patients. Clinical data demonstrate that for cancer patients whose expectancies exceed 3 months, the overall costs of intrathecal pain therapy may be less than those of tunneled epidural catheters or external infusion devices. In nonmalignant pain, intrathecal therapy appears to be cost effective compared to conventional medical management at 22 months. Further debate and fine tuning of these economic models from all perspectives are required.

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