Using a large US health insurance claims database, we identified all persons aged 18 years or older with 2 or more medical encounters in calendar year 2000 for painful neuropathic disorders (PNDs). We also identified an age- and gender-matched group of patients without PNDs (matched control subjects). We then compared the clinical characteristics and economic costs of PND patients with those of matched control subjects. There were a total of 55,686 patients with PNDs in the study database. The most frequently noted PNDs were back and neck pain with neuropathic involvement (62.3% of PND patients), causalgia (12.1%), and diabetic neuropathy (10.8%). In comparison with matched control subjects, PND patients were more likely to have other pain-related conditions, including fibromyalgia (6.0% vs 0.6% for control subjects), osteoarthritis (13.6% vs 3.6%), and other chronic comorbidities, such as coronary heart disease (13.6% vs 6.5%) and depression (6.4% vs 2.3%). Total calendar year 2000 health care charges were 3-fold higher for PND patients than matched control subjects ($17,355 vs $5,715, respectively). Our results suggest that patients with PNDs are generally in poorer health and have higher health care costs than their peers without these conditions.
Perspective: Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents and opioids was widespread in patients with PNDs, while relatively few received antiepileptic drugs and tricyclic antidepressants, both of which are often more effective against neuropathic pain. Our study raises questions about the optimality of PND treatment in clinical practice.
Copyright 2004 American Pain Society