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Docs Prescribing More Opioid Painkillers Than Ever

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By    |   Monday, 21 Mar 2016 12:41 PM


Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines meant to reduce the use of opioid drugs to fight chronic pain, citing an "epidemic" of opioid overdoses and abuse.

Now, a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that physicians are prescribing more opioid painkillers than ever before to patients undergoing common surgeries, such as knee arthroscopy.

The new study, which included researchers from the University of Toronto, examined records of 155,297 adults undergoing four common outpatient surgeries — carpal tunnel repair, laparoscopic gall bladder removal, some minimally invasive knee surgeries, and hernia repair.

When the researchers analyzed patients who had not been given an opioid prescription in the six months before surgery, they found that four out of five patients filled a prescription for an opioid pain medication within seven days following surgery.

In the years studied — 2004 through 2011 — they found that the percentage of patients prescribed the addicting drugs increased for all four surgical procedures. The amount of opioids prescribed for knee arthroscopy, for example, increased by 18 percent.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the two most widely used opioids include hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (Percocet and OxyContin).


"These data show us a concerning trend," said the study's senior author, Dr. Mark Neuman. "The growth we observe over time in opioid prescribing after surgery occurs against the backdrop of a major public health crisis of prescription opioid abuse.

"Additional work is needed to understand how postoperative opioid prescribing patterns might play into this epidemic, and to define better strategies for treating postoperative pain safely and effectively in the future," he said.

The new CDC guidelines also recommend that clinicians establish treatment goals before prescribing opioids and address how opioids can be discontinued if benefits do not outweigh risks.

The CDC also recommends that clinicians prescribe the lowest effective dosage and evaluate the benefits and harms of continued opioid therapy with patients at least every three months.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that approximately 2.1 million are addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. About 467,000 Americans are addicted to heroin, and studies have revealed a strong link between heroin use and the use of opioids.

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Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines meant to reducethe use of opioid drugs to fight chronic pain, citing an epidemic of opioid overdoses and abuse. Now, a new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of...
docs, prescribing, more, opioid, painkillers, surgery
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2016-41-21
Monday, 21 Mar 2016 12:41 PM
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