Deaths related to prescription opioid therapy are under intense scrutiny, prompting those in pain medicineclinicians, patient advocates, and regulatorsto understand the causes behind avoidable mortality in legitimately treated patients. Studies reporting on statistics, causes, and adverse events involving opioid treatment are now available in a special supplement of Pain Medicine, a journal published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM).
Opioids are prescribed to treat moderate to severe pain and include extended-release opioid analgesic drugs such as methadone, morphine, and oxycodone. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), 29 million Americans age 12 and older misused extended-release and long-acting opioids in 2002 climbing to more than 33 million in 2007. The FDA also estimates that opioids were responsible for nearly 50,000 emergency room visits in 2006.
"Preventing unnecessary deaths from opioid therapy should be a central focus for everyone working in the field of pain medicine," said Lynn R. Webster, MD, FACPM, FASAM, Medical Director and Founder of Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic in Salt Lake City, Utah, and officer for the AAPM. "Our primary objective is to increase understanding of the major risk factors associated with opioid-related deaths and exploring methods that mitigate the adverse effects involved in treating patients with analgesics that are potentially lethal."
One study in the Pain Medicine supplement on opioid mortality reports on the findings of epidemiologists at the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) who examined medication-related harm starting in 2004. The research team, led by Christina A. Porucznik, PhD, MSPH, of the Division of Public Health at the University of Utah analyzed several data sources including vital statistics, medical examiner records, emergency department diagnoses, and the state prescription registry. "Our analysis s
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