Experts Pave the Way for Better European Pain Policy

From the 7th to the 08th of June, the city of Valetta in Malta hosted the Societal Impact of Pain (SIP) symposium. Patients, healthcare professionals, researchers and European politicians came together to discuss EU healthcare policies to alleviate the burden of chronic pain for an estimated 100 million patients.

For a very long time, chronic pain and its implications on the whole society[1] have suffered a lack of recognition from the decision makers, both at EU and national level. The challenge for patient organisations working in that area has always been to make the condition acknowledged as an important factor affecting patients as much as any other chronic diseases.

Times are perhaps changing: this year’s symposium saw two major announcements that will potentially bring good news for the chronic pain community:

  • The classification by the World Health Organisation of chronic pain in the catalogue of International Classification of Diseases;
  • The setting up of a focus group on chronic pain within the European Commission EU Health Policy Forum.

Representing the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Robert Jakob shared the global institution’s proposal for a new definition of ‘chronic pain’. This classification is to be included in the newest WHO’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

The ICD list is used by countries whenever they want to develop new healthcare measures and consider which services to fund. With this new official classification, chronic pain is more likely to get recognition by national governments and be included in national health policies and get more visibility. “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, “We should see chronic pain finally getting the recognition it deserves.”

The other important milestone from the symposium was the communication from Martin Seychell, Deputy Director General at the European Commission’s DG SANTE that a dedicated expert group will be set up within the EU Health Policy Forum, a platform bringing together health-related NGOs and stakeholders, under the auspices of DG SANTE. The hope of the chronic pain community is that this expert group will ultimately enhance best practice sharing across EU Member States, in coordination with the European Commission. Once fully operational, the group will be open to employers’ organisations, insurers, economists and any other invited stakeholder. “The European Commission’s initiative reflects the Maltese Presidency’s goal of structured cooperation between healthcare systems. It is a huge step forward for patients throughout Europe, and a huge momentum for our cause,” said a delighted Gertrude Buttigieg of the Malta Health Network, EPF Member and co-host of the symposium.

Our Secretary General Nicola Bedlington took part in the symposium and recorded a video statement: ”EPF is driving two agendas that are intrinsically linked to the issue of challenging pain: patient empowerment and patient access, aspects that have profound impact on pain management”.


Link to the full report of the event:

[1] The total direct and indirect healthcare costs for chronic pain disorders in Member States vary from 2 % to 2.9 % of GDP, with an EU average of 2.4 % and a cost of EUR 271 billion per year.

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