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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2002 Feb;23(2):131-7.

Chronic pain prevalence and analgesic prescribing in a general medical population.

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Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University Department of Anesthesiology, Palo Alto, CA, USA.


In order to better understand the prevalence of chronic pain and the frequency of analgesic use in the U.S. veteran general medical population, a review of 300 randomly selected charts was conducted. This review revealed that 50% of patients suffered from at least one type of chronic pain. A review of the corresponding pharmacy records indicated that approximately 75% of patients with chronic pain were prescribed at least 1 analgesic, and most received 2 or more. While nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were the most commonly prescribed class of analgesics, 44% of those receiving an analgesic received opioids. Examination of clinic notes revealed that the prescribing physicians documented physical examination infrequently, and commented on a specific opioid treatment plan or follow-up of that plan in a minority of cases. It appears that chronic pain is common among U.S. veterans, and that analgesics, including opioids, are commonly prescribed. Documentation of the efficacy of opioids for treating chronic pain is often scant.

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