Individuals with pain often present with more than one painful condition. The purpose of this study was to characterize the rates of comorbidity, pain medication use, and health care costs for 23 selected pain conditions in a large health plan using administrative claims data from 2005 to 2007.
Eligible patients included 1,211,483 adults with at least one pain condition during the one-year study period. Pain condition cohorts were classified based on the first diagnosis present in the claims during the study period.
Musculoskeletal pain conditions were among the most prevalent cohorts including low back pain, osteoarthritis, and fibromyalgia. Cancer pain was the least prevalent cohort. Conditions with the lowest illness severity included migraine and painful bladder syndrome cohorts, while cohorts with diabetic neuropathy, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-associated pain, and cancer pain were the most severe. Across cohorts, the mean number of comorbid pain conditions ranged from 1.39 (for cancer pain and migraine) to 2.65 (for multiple sclerosis pain). High rates of mental health conditions were found in cohorts with HIV-associated pain and multiple sclerosis pain (42.59% and 34.78%) and were lowest among cohorts with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthropathy (12.73% and 13.31%), respectively. Rates of sleep disorders ranged from 5.47% (for painful bladder syndrome) to 11.59% (for multiple sclerosis pain). Overall, patients averaged 3.53 unique pain medications during the study period. Considerable annual total health care costs were observed in the cancer pain cohort and the lowest costs were observed in the postherpetic neuropathy, surgically-induced pain, migraine, and irritable bowel syndrome cohorts. Costs attributed to pain were highest among the multiple sclerosis, HIV, and cancer pain cohorts. The highest pharmaceutical costs were observed in the HIV cohort.
These findings underscore the heterogeneity of patients with pain in terms of burden of illness, costs to the health care system, and the complexity of commonly co-occurring disorders.