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Praveen Adusumilli, Vidya Viswanath and Raghunadha Rao Digumarthi

Introduction: Perception of pain and the need to treat it is highly variable, even amongst oncologists. Availability of pain specialists is an added advantage. This is an analysis of prescription patterns of pain medication and its outcome in cancer patients. Materials and Methods: The center has 8 oncologists and a pain and palliative care specialist. All the patients presenting to the outpatient department of our institute with a diagnosis of cancer were prospectively analyzed for usage of pain medication using a structured questionnaire. Data on diagnosis, stage, treatment given, and outcomes were analyzed. Pain intensity was recorded on visual analogue scale, types of pain medicines used, and their side effects were noted. The average cost of the pain medication purchased in our pharmacy was calculated. Use of alternative medicines was also noted. Results: A total of 1,098 cancer patients were evaluated. Pain was a prominent complaint in 64.6% of patients. Of these, only 89.5% received pain medication. Mild, moderate, and severe pain was seen in 52.1%, 26.7%, and 21.2% respectively. The 3 most common diagnoses were breast cancer in 19.7%, gastrointestinal cancer in 14%, and 12.1% with head and neck cancers. Weak opioids and NSAIDS were most commonly prescribed analgesics in 44.2% and 42.1%, respectively. Morphine was prescribed for 13.7% of patients. The average cost of pain medicines is Re 148 (US $2.25 a month). Side effects from medication were seen in 13.5% of patients, with constipation being the most common. Alternative forms of medicine were reportedly used by 148 patients: Ayurveda by 20.8%, and homeopathy by 12.9%, native medication by 6.1%, Unani by 1.8%. Good relief of pain was reported by 66%, fair relief by 27%, no relief by 6.1%, and worsening by <1%. Conclusion: Pain management is near ideal with the availability of services of pain and palliative care specialist in a cancer center.