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Preventing avoidable opioid-related deaths top priority for pain medicine field
Date:6/12/2011

howed that prescription drug-related harm, including death, in Utah primarily involved opioids," commented Dr. Porucznik. "Additional studies are needed to indentify risky prescribing patterns and individual-level risk factors which contribute to opioid-related injury or death."

In a related study, a panel of pain medicine experts, led by Dr. Webster, reviewed the medical literature and state and federal government sources to assess frequency, demographics and risk factors associated with overdose deaths caused by opioids. Analysis revealed a pattern of increasing opioid-related overdose deaths beginning in the early 2000s. While methadone represented less than 5% of opioid prescriptions dispensed, one third of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. were attributed to this drug.

Researchers determined that root causes of deaths from methadone included physician error due to knowledge deficits, patient non-adherence to prescribed medication regimen, and unanticipated medical or mental health comorbidities. Furthermore, some insurance companies require that methadone be used as first-line therapy to control pain over other opioid therapy. Forcing the use of methadone by health care providers who may not be aware of how to safely prescribe this drug may lead to greater mortality risk.

Additional contributors to overall opioid-related deaths included the presence of sleep-disordered breathing and use of other drugs that depress the central nervous system such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and antidepressants. Approximately two thirds of opioid-related deaths are caused by opioids other than methadone. "Patients with depression, anxiety, or other mental illness who also have chronic pain need structured care that minimizes risks associated with opioid therapy," concluded Dr. Webster. "It is very difficult to safely treat chronic pain in patients who have serious mental health issues. We must strike a balance between treating pain and preventing har
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Contact: Dawn Peters
healthnews@wiley.com
781-388-8408
Wiley-Blackwell
Source:Eurekalert

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