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Research Finds Overdose Deaths Occur When Changing Opioids
Date:3/29/2012

GLENVIEW, Ill., March 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Common practices for changing from one opioid to another, including use of published dose conversion ratios, may be contributing to the growing number of opioid-related fatalities, new research suggests. The results from a scientific literature review and a case study using this new model of opioid rotation are presented in the April issue of Pain Medicine, the official journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM).

Patients may be rotated from one opioid to another for various reasons, including inadequate pain relief, intolerable side effects or lack of coverage by insurance companies of the original opioid. Opioid rotation has shown to be useful in 50% to 80% of patients. Yet according to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 15,000 people die every year as a result of overdoses involving prescription opioids. While many decedents were people who took opioids without being prescribed them, some patients do die while under the care of physicians.

"Our goal is to reverse the national trend of unintentional overdose deaths while advocating for appropriate therapy for the one in three Americans who experience chronic pain," said Lynn R. Webster, M.D., study co-investigator and president elect of the AAPM.

Flaws uncovered in the current method of rotating opioids include prescriber error and use of inaccurate dose conversion ratios found in published protocols. Webster, who serves as medical director of Lifetree Clinical Research in Salt Lake City, Utah, completed the study with co-investigator Perry G. Fine, M.D., immediate past president of AAPM and professor of Anesthesiology, Pain Research and Management Centers in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Utah.

Concluding that most fatal outcomes during opioid rotation are preventable, the researchers suggested three easy-to-remember steps th
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SOURCE American Academy of Pain Medicine
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