Jul 22, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus fears keep patients with severe chronic pain from seeking care

Dr. Tuhina Neogi, Chief of Rheumatology & Professor of Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine

Photo: Axios Screenshot

Health care systems must ensure that patients are not putting off in-person care due to fear of contracting coronavirus, Tuhina Neogi, chief of rheumatology and professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, said Wednesday during an Axios virtual event.

The big picture: The pandemic put patients severely behind in doctor's visits and their ability to manage chronic pain. Earlier in the year, patients were too afraid to seek treatment and were experiencing "diminishing quality of life" even in urgent instances, Neogi added.

  • "Health care systems are going to have to be nimble in making sure the safety of patients, health care providers, trainees, staff, etc., are all considered at the same time to ensure that we provide the care that’s needed for patients," she said.

The state of play: Hospitals have improved pre-screening patients for COVID-19 upon visiting and have enacted social distancing and hygiene protocols, but ramifications of managing chronic pain often affect those who systemically lack resources.

  • "[S]ystemic inequities have a higher proportion of chronic comorbidities, which themselves are accompanied by higher risk of chronic pain. Just historically people of color have had their pain less aggressively managed than people of white backgrounds," Neogi said.

Quick take: The coronavirus pandemic has been a trigger for those managing chronic pain, Randall Rutta, CEO and president of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, tells Axios' Mike Allen.


Randall Rutta, CEO and president of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association
Photo: Axios screenshot
"These individuals are really stressed out [during the pandemic] and that stress in and of itself has exacerbated their pain and their conditions with autoimmune disease. So many conditions where people’s bodies are struggling against them in many respects."
— Rutta tells Axios

What to watch: Rutta said there are several non-opioid medicines are on the horizon to help patients with autoimmune diseases.

Watch the Axios event live.

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