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The opioid crisis in America has received significant attention the past few months. Multiple government and medical professional societies have issued new guidelines; 37 state attorneys general sent a letter to the nation’s health plan association encouraging health plans to evaluate coverage policy for non-pharmacologic solutions for pain management; states announced new guidelines on opioid prescribing; and the president declared a public health emergency relating to the opioid crisis

And while it’s important and appropriate for the health care industry and lawmakers to initiate a rapid and definitive response to opioid overuse and abuse, it’s also important not to get distracted from the root cause: We have a pain management crisis in the United States. One hundred sixteen million Americans suffer from chronic pain, and a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that estimated direct health care costs for musculoskeletal conditions, including pain of the spine, neck, hip, shoulder, knee, wrist, and elbow, among others, have escalated to an alarming $183.5 billion annually. These conditions are more expensive than cancer care ($115.3B) and cardiac disease care ($175.1B).

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