Tackling Chronic Pain in Italy

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In recent years, since the adoption of a law assuring its citizens’ right to access palliative care, Italy has given increased attention to pain management. According to Aldo Sterpone, Italy General Manager at Grünenthal, a company especially focused on the area of pain, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Affecting one in five adults in Europe, in Italy 16 million people suffer from chronic pain. To improve pain management across the country, in 2010, Law 38/2010, aimed at ensuring adequate treatment of patients suffering from both cancer-related pain and chronic non-cancer pain through an integrated network of services, was approved.

In a recent PharmaBoardroom interview, Grünenthal Italia’s GM, Aldo Sterpone, commenting on pain management in Italy, said that “… there is still a lot of work to be done to fully implement the law across Italy.”

In addition, Sterpone remarked that “there are still quite significant differences across the regions, in terms of application of law 38 and this results in significantly different approaches to patients with diversified patient journeys. In many cases patients do not reach the appropriate specialist as soon as they should, going on for years before getting the correct diagnosis and the appropriate treatments.”

The absence of coordinated pain-management policies is not unique to Italy as demonstrated in the 2019 study presented at the Congress of the European Pain Federation (EFIC), Prioritizing Pain: An analysis of the policy environment affecting patients suffering from chronic pain across Europe, which revealed a widespread lack of country-wide initiatives in a number of European countries.

Sterpone further explained that one of the issues with pain is that it is not always taken into proper consideration: “In most cases, unfortunately, pain is simply considered a symptom of something else, of a disease. Chronic pain has now been recognized as a disease, per se, which means we should deal with chronic pain as something that is affecting and impacting patients’ overall quality of life,” he said.

Perhaps some of this has to do with a lack of awareness around pain. To raise awareness, the International Association for the Study of Pain has announced 2022 as the Global Year for Translating Pain Knowledge to Practice. The aim of the campaign is to increase the awareness of clinicians, scientists, and the public of pain knowledge and how it can be used for the benefit of those living with pain.


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