New Model Helps Clinicians Predict Which Patients Require Highest Doses of Opioids for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
DrMieke Soens, MD
Anesthesiology Specialist 
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Opioid use worldwide has doubled in the last two decades and several countries, including the US, are struggling with a real opioid epidemic. Higher opioid doses after surgery are associated with prolonged opioid use and misuse. For example, in a study of more than 30,000 patients undergoing minor surgery such as appendectomy or gallbladder surgery, the risk to become a chronic opioid user was around 6% compared to 0.4% in the non-surgical population.

Many of our colleagues have previously identified predictors associated with more severe pain and opioid use after surgery, however, to assess those predictors, they had to use lengthy questionnaires. This approach is very time-consuming and impractical for use in daily clinical practice. The machine learning models that we have developed can work quickly and in real-time prior to surgery to mine data from patient’s electronic medical records and without the need for cumbersome questionnaires, in order to selectively identify those patients who will need high doses of opioids after surgery.

This can help reduce postoperative opioid use, by allowing the care team to maximize non-opioid analgesic strategies in these patients. Examples of non-opioid strategies include nerve blocks and epidurals and different types of non-opioid medications. We know that these alternatives can be very costly and sometimes risky. Therefore, being able to target the right treatment to the right patient is important to not only to reduce opioid use, but also to ensure that patients receive the treatment that is right for them.

Study Finds Chronic Pain Patients Used More Opioids For Pain Relief When COVID-19 Cancelled Elective Procedures

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Dr. Shantha Ganesan MD
 Pain Medicine Specialist
Kings County Hospital Center

David Kim, MD, PGY-2
SUNY Downstate Department of Anesthesiology 

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: The opioid epidemic is a serious national crisis that has detrimental impacts on both public health, and social and economic welfare. Therefore, any efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, including minimizing or weaning opioid prescriptions, and using other modes of analgesia when possible are undeniably necessary in this day and age. With the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, healthcare providers abruptly changed their care delivery. In-person clinic visits were changed to telemedicine, and elective cases were cancelled.

Due to a growing concern that chronic pain patients may have limited resources from this unprecedented time of social and economic shutdown, organizations such as American Medical Association and Drug Enforcement Administration have supported implementing measures to ensure these patients achieve adequate pain control by increasing access to pain medications, but at the cost of reducing barriers and restrictions to controlled substances. Given the cancellation of elective interventional pain management procedures and relaxed regulations on controlled substances during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is reasonable to suspect a dramatic increase in opioid prescription during this time.

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Cesarean Section: TAP Block with EXPAREL Provides Long-Acting Pain Relief and Reduces Opioid Use

PainRelief.com Interview with:

Dr. Ashraf Habib, MB BCh
Chief of the Division of Women’s Anesthesia
Professor of Anesthesiology
Duke University, Durham, NC

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?

Response:  Cesarean sections (C-sections) occur every day in the United States, with more than 1.2 million procedures in the US each year according to the CDC. Since postsurgical pain after C-sections can range from moderate to severe discomfort, it is important that this pain is managed effectively and safely. The amount of pain experienced and the way pain is treated can have an impact on a new mother’s postsurgical recovery. While opioids were once considered the standard treatment to manage pain after surgery, postsurgical opioid consumption can have a negative impact on a new mother’s recovery experience, causing unwanted side effects such as drowsiness, itching, nausea, vomiting, constipation and the risk of persistent use or dependence. In fact, research shows nearly nine in 10 mothers and mothers-to-be have concerns about taking opioids during and after childbirth, yet 51% of all C-section patients are still prescribed an opioid to manage postsurgical pain.

We recently published results from a Phase 4 study in Anesthesia and Analgesia that revealed the long-acting local anesthetic EXPAREL (bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension), when administered with bupivacaine as part of transversus abdominis plane (TAP) field block, provided a significant reduction in opioid consumption and a greater percentage of opioid-spared patients, with optimized pain control through 72 hours. This was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind study across 13 clinical sites in the United States, in patients undergoing elective C-section and receiving spinal anesthesia and a multimodal analgesic regimen. Patients were randomized to receive EXPAREL 266 mg plus bupivacaine HCl 50 mg or bupivacaine HCl 50 mg alone administered via TAP field block after delivery.

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Are Off-Label Gabapentinoids Useful for Post-Operative Pain Relief?

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Michael Verret MD FRCPC
Alexis F. Turgeon MD MSc FRCPC

Laval University, Québec

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Gabapentinoids is a class of drugs including gabapentin and pregabalin that is frequently used for the management of postoperative pain as a part of multimodal analgesia regimen. This off-label use of gabapentinoids is increasing in many countries despite an unclear level of evidence and off-label use.

In our meta-analysis of 281 randomized controlled trials, the perioperative use of gabapentinoids was not associated with clinically significant difference in postoperative acute, subacute or chronic pain intensity compared to control. These findings were consistent regardless of the type of drug (gabapentin or pregabalin) and the dosage regimen. Gabapentinoids were also associated with an increased risk of adverse events such as dizziness and visual disturbance.

Pain Medication Beliefs Can Enhance (or Impair) Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Leon Timmerman, PhD
St Antonius Hospital, Department of Anesthesiology
Intensive Care and Pain Medicine
The Netherlands

Leon Timmerman, PhD St Antonius Hospital, Department of Anesthesiology Intensive Care and Pain Medicine The Netherlands
Dr. Timmerman

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Chronic pain is commonly treated with pain medication. However, the results of pharmacological treatment are often poor. One of the reasons might be that half of the patients do not use their medication as prescribed. Underuse as well as overuse are common and have been described to result in reduced treatment effect, health care risks and unnecessary treatment changes. The are many risks factors described for non-adherent behavior.

The way people think about their pain medication have been shown to be related to the way they use their medication. With this study, we confirmed this relation with a prospective study. Baseline beliefs about pain medication, measured by ‘Pain Medication Attitudes Questionnaire’,  were found to be related to underuse of pain medication, the occurrence of side effects and patient satisfaction after three months.  

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