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Sharp rise in opioid drugs prescribed for non-cancer pain, reports study in Medical Care
Date:9/15/2013

6 and 29 percent throughout the decade. Out of approximately 164 million pain visits in 2010, about half were treated with some kind of pain-relieving drug: 20 percent with an opioid and 27 percent with a non-opioid pain reliever.

Analysis of visits for new-onset musculokeletal pain found a similar increase in opioid prescribing but a significant decrease in prescribing of non-opioid analgesics: from 38 to 29 percent. The percentage of patients receiving both opioid and non-opioid pain relievers also increased during the period studied.

Need for Increased Attention to Safer Alternatives for Pain Treatment

After adjustment for other factors, there were few patient, physician, or practice characteristics related to higher or lower rates of opioid use for non-cancer pain. Rather, "increases in opioid prescribing generally occurred non-selectively over time," Dr Alexander and coauthors write.

Chronic pain affects approximately 100 million U.S. adults, and carries major costs in terms of health care and lost productivity. A growing awareness of the high prevalence and impact of pain has prompted efforts to improve its identification and managementfor example, by routinely assessing pain as the "fifth vital sign."

An unintended consequence of those efforts has been a well-documented increase in opioid use and abuse in the United States, with consistent increases in emergency department and deaths from prescription opioid abuse. "By 2008, the annual number of fatal drug poisonings surpassed those of motor vehicle deaths and overdose deaths attributable to prescription drugs exceeded those of cocaine and heroin combined," Dr Alexander and colleagues write. The new study is one of the first to focus on trends in pain treatment in ambulatory carethat is, office and clinic visits.

The results highlight the importance of balancing the risks and benefits of analgesics prescribed in the primary care setting.
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Contact: Connie Hughes
Connie.Hughes@wolterskluwer.com
646-674-6348
Wolters Kluwer Health
Source:Eurekalert

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