Ditching pain pills for the pump

Ditching pain pills for the pump

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Panic set in when Joyce Jones forgot her pain pills during a trip to Chicago. In so much pain from a back injury that kept her from being able to walk her dogs, she had relied on the pills to make life bearable.

But now without them on the drive back to Louisville, she decided to go along with her doctor's suggestion that she ditch the pills, and have a pain medication pump implanted.

"It was a great day because it changed my life," Jones said of the results, which included pain reduction and no pills.

Dr. Ajith Nair, of Kentuckiana Pain Specialists in Louisville, has implanted hundreds of the Medtronics targeted drug delivery devices in recent years. Most of those patients used to pop addictive pills daily. But no more.

The biggest advantage of the pump, Nair said, is the reduced dosage.

Because the medicine is delivered by a catheter straight to the spine, patients receive about one percent of the drug they used to take orally. The medicine doesn't have to travel through the stomach, kidneys or liver.

Nair said insurance companies are more likely to approve medicine pump implants now because after six months, they end up costing less than pill prescriptions. And patients don't need other treatments from the side effects of pills.

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While the pumps can't solve the huge problem of opioid addiction, Nair said they can make a dent.

Candidates for the targeted delivery devices include most people with severe chronic pain. From amputees to accident victims and those with arthritis and degenerative conditions, Nair said he's seen incredible success.

Jones will confirm that. She doesn't have to worry about forgetting her pills anymore. She said she feels much better and she's back to doing the seemingly simple thing she loves - walking her dogs.

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