Press Release
Strong cultural differences in attitudes to pain and its treatment; Advice sought predominantly from health professionals Bristol-Myers Squibb / UPSA Division – Ifop Rueil Malmaison, 14th October 2010 – 4 days before the Global Day Against Pain, the UPSA
Division of Bristol-Myers Squibb presented the findings of the first survey of Europeans and pain,
conducted in partnership with Ifop, covering a sample of over 3000 people*
While Europeans in general and the French in particular consider it normal to treat pain, this is less
the case among the British. The British are also the least affected by the impact of pain on their
daily life
Women appear more affected by everyday pain than men, notably with regard to backache and
headache, the two principal sources of pain among Europeans. Pain is invariably considered a
handicap in all aspects of everyday life (sexual, professional, familial or even leisure activities).
Drugs remain the first resort in the event of pain, notably paracetamol in France, ibuprofen in Spain,
and aspirin in Italy
For the majority of Europeans, and in particular for the Germans, health professionals are the
reference in terms of advice.

Pain management: wide differences from one country to another
Pain relief: considered normal by the French, less so by the British

Findings show that while pain management is looked on as normal by the majority of Europeans
(54%), this figure hides considerable differences depending on the country. The French are the most
inclined to seek pain relief, with 94% of the population finding this to be a normal approach. The British
take the opposite view, with only 31% of the population feeling this way.
Personal experience of pain

In Europe, women suffer more than men as far as all the everyday pain covered in this survey is
concerned (backache, headache, joint pain, stiffness, stomach-ache, toothache, migraine). The
difference is particularly marked in the case of backache (68% vs 56%) and headache (63% vs 41%).
The type of profession has little impact on experience of pain, despite the more marked
differences for backache, which affects employees or workers (62%) more than intermediate
professions or management (55%), for headache (60% and 53% respectively), and menstrual pain for
women (53% vs 45%).
Backache: the leading source of pain among Europeans…followed by headache

affects almost two-thirds of the Europeans interviewed. It is the primary cause of pain in all
countries covered in the survey, the highest frequency being in Germany (68% of the population), the
lowest in Italy (55% of the population), and affecting two-thirds of those in France. Women appear
subject to this type of pain more than men (notably in Spain, with 73% and 50% respectively), as do
the elderly (notably in France with 67% of those over 65 against 52% of those aged 18-24).
Headache comes in second position, with more than half the Europeans declaring they suffer “often”
or “occasionally” from this type of pain. Again, more women than men appear affected, with 63%
among women and 41% among men. Migraine affects 22% of Europeans (“often” or “occasional y”).
Once more it is women who are the most affected. French (34%), Italian and Spanish (33%) women
are particularly vulnerable, while British and German women are the least affected (25% and 21%
Other everyday pains represent a significant handicap for Europeans

Joint pain
comes in third place, affecting especially the elderly over the age of 65 (67% against 30%
among those aged under 25), as does stiffness, although to a lesser extent (53% against 43%).

Pain impacts significantly on all aspects of everyday life

One out of two Europeans considers that the discomfort of pain impacts on their everyday life. This
is true for all countries and whatever the type of activity (professional, familial, intimate or leisure).
Notable differences between countries do emerge, however, with a significantly lower proportion in the
UK: while one in two Europeans finds pain has significant repercussions on everyday life, in the UK
the proportion is only about one in three.
Attitudes to pain

The delay before treating pain (with drugs or other means) also appears variable depending on the
country: while more than half the Spanish wait less than an hour before treating their pain, nearly 40%
of Germans wait for over two hours. On a European level there is no marked difference between the
sub-groups (sex, age, occupation), but British women appear more reactive than their male
compatriots, 45% saying they treat their pain within the hour, against 36% for men.
Drugs: the primary solution for pain relief

Drugs are by far the most used solution for pain relief (86% of Europeans), and the first resort for
the majority (73%). More natural alternatives, while not as popular as drugs, are nevertheless adopted
by a considerable proportion of the population, with 32% declaring recourse to treatment by exposure
to heat or cold, 29% to massages, and 27% to relaxation exercises. Essential oils, acupuncture and
hypnosis are used only marginally (respectively 7%, 2% and 1% of Europeans).
As far as these alternative treatments are concerned, each country has its preference, with notably a
greater use of heat or cold treatment among Germans (50%), of massages among Spanish (38%),
and of relaxation methods by Italians (34%).
Paracetamol: the leading anti-pain agent in Europe

As for the type of anti-pain drugs used, marked preferences appear per country, with paracetamol
being overall the most popular, notably in France (65%) and the UK (49%). Spain stands out from
other European countries for its greater use of ibuprofen (43%, against 35% for paracetamol). Italians
more readily turn to aspirin (33%), which is also the choice for 25% of Germans.
The GP remains the leading reference for advice on treatment of pain

Three-quarters of Europeans prioritize referral to a GP when seeking pain relief. Moreover, for 52% of
people interviewed the GP is the first person consulted. Participants also express confidence in their
pharmacist (52%), but only 15% in people close to them, while 10% do not seek advice from anyone.

When suffering from pain, the British prefer self-medication, Germans consult

In detail, interesting idiosyncrasies emerge in the different countries: in Germany 68% declare they
turn first to their GP for consultation, whereas the British tend to seek a first opinion from the
pharmacist (20%) or family or friends (19%) rather than their doctor (18%). The British are also the
most numerous in not seeking advice from anyone (30%).
Little reference to the media as a source of advice for treatment of everyday pain

Internet is consulted by only 15% of Europeans suffering from pain, its use being greatest in Germany
(22%) and the UK (22%). The press is the least used source of information on this topic, mentioned by
only 1% of Europeans.
“In addition to being a much researched and increasingly understood physiological process, pain is
also a function of our environment and our culture”
said Eric Boccard, Director of the UPSA Pain
Institute. “This first study casts new light on the behaviour of patients according to their country of
origin and the importance of health professionals in the pain management process ….al key elements
in the management of pain on a daily basis by the various intermediaries”

Study conducted by Ifop on behalf of UPSA Division of Bristol-Myers Squibb among a sample of 1009
French, 503 Germans, 502 Spanish, 511 Italians and 505 British individuals aged 18 and over,
representative of the population (quota method – sex, age, occupation) after regional stratification.
Interviews were carried out using online self-completion questionnaire (CAWI – Computer Assisted
Web Interview) between 11th and 19th March 2010.
About Bristol-Myers Squibb UPSA Division

Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company focused on its mission to discover,
develop and deliver innovative drugs to help patients combat serious diseases. In 1994 UPSA became
a 100% subsidiary of Bristol-Myers Squibb. For further information, consult their internet site:

The UPSA Pain Institute has participated in the Global Day Against Pain since 2008. In 2009 the
UPSA Pain Institute supported the organisation of this day among 150 health establishments
throughout France. The UPSA Pain Institute has made nearly 22 500 works, publications and
brochures available to health professionals and patients. All these can be consulted on the UPSA Pain
Institute’s websit
Press contacts

Bristol-Myers Squibb
01 41 86 76 83
01 58 83 66 42
06 83 59 05 46
06 74 29 88 89

Source: http://ifop.fr/media/poll/1287-2-study_file.pdf

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