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Methadone and Other Opioids Not Always Equivalent, Conversion Can Be Lethal
Date:2/4/2010

As Lower-Cost Methadone Prescribing Increases, Knowledge is Critical

SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a unique and comprehensive literature review of poisoning deaths involving opioids from 1999 -- 2009, the deaths involving methadone were found to be disproportionately high. Methadone represented less than five percent of all opioid prescriptions but is responsible for a third of the deaths. After four years of investigation, the major underlying cause was found to be fundamental misunderstandings about the properties of the medicine -- a "knowledge deficit" -- especially when converting patients from other opioids.

The results of the literature review, root causes of the increase in poisoning deaths during this time period, and suggested solutions to this issue were presented today at the American Academy of Pain Medicine's 26th Annual Meeting.

After a rapid increase of opioid-related deaths was reported in Utah, then president of the Utah Academy of Pain Medicine, Dr. Lynn Webster decided to find out why, and then find a solution. By reviewing state and federal sources as well as PubMed, he was able to assess demographics, prevalence, and other risk factors related to this significant increase in poisoning deaths involving opioids. Webster found that methadone deaths had more to do with misunderstandings about when to prescribe it, how to convert patients to it from other pain medicines, and how to inform patients about its risks.

"Opioids are important tools that pain physicians need in order to have a full range of treatment options for patients who are suffering," said Dr. Webster. "As a scientist and practitioner dedicated to helping patients and the practice of pain medicine, I wanted to understand the increase in opioid-related
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SOURCE American Academy of Pain Medicine
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