World Health Organisation proposes new definition of chronic pain, giving hope to patients

Valletta, Malta, June 9, 2017. The World Health Organisation (WHO), the global institution setting health policy standards, has proposed a new definition of ‘chronic pain’ which could see care for pain patients improve significantly. Speaking at the Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) symposium, Dr Robert Jakob, Medical Officer at the WHO, gave a preview of the new definition and its implications.

The classification of chronic primary pain as a disease should lead to governments taking a new interest in pain and how their health systems assess and treat it. The WHO International Classification of Diseases (ICD) is usually followed by governments when they are altering their health systems and considering which services to fund. Apart from governments, the ICD also informs clinicians and researchers alike. Now, chronic primary pain is likely to be included for the first time when the current ICD process concludes.

“This will have major implications for health care,” said Rolf-Detlef Treede, Vice-Dean for Research at the Medical Faculty Mannheim of Heidelberg University in Germany and former President of the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). “We should see chronic pain finally getting the recognition it deserves.”

Liisa Jutila, Vice President of Pain Alliance Europe, agreed and highlighted: “Chronic pain has for years been poorly understood and poorly treated. The WHO recognising chronic primary pain should reverse this trend and improve the lives of patients around the world.”

The European Pain Federation EFIC, which represents 20,000 healthcare practitioners and researcher in the field of pain have been proposing a definition of chronic pain as a disease since 2001. The current ICD process has been supported by an IASP task force that developed the classification of chronic primary pain for the 11th ICD catalogue.

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About the SIP-Platform

The Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) is an international, multi-stakeholder platform created as a joint initiative of the European Pain Federation Efic® and Grünenthal with the aim to:

  • raise awareness of the relevance of the impact that pain has on our societies, health and economic systems
  • exchange information and sharing best-practices across all Member States of the European Union
  • develop and foster European-wide policy strategies for an improved pain management in Europe (Pain Policy).

The scientific framework of the “Societal Impact of Pain” (SIP) platform is under the responsibility of the European Pain Federation EFIC®. Cooperation partners for SIP 2017 are Pain Alliance Europe (PAE) and Active Citizenship Network (ACN). The SIP 2017 symposium is co-hosted by the Malta Health Network and the No Pain Foundation. The pharmaceutical company Grünenthal GmbH is responsible for funding and non-financial support (e.g. logistical support). In the past the scientific aims of the SIP symposia have been endorsed by over 300 international and national pain advocacy groups, scientific organisations and authorities.            

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