Older Adult Black Men at Disproportionate Risk of Fatal Opioid Overdose

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Maryann Mason, PhD
Department of Emergency Medicine
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics,
Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois

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

Response: This study came about because we were looking at data for Cook County, Illinois and saw an increase in older adult opioid overdose deaths.  That made us wonder if there was a national trend or the observation was limited to our local area.  We undertook the research to determine that and found that it is indeed a national phenomenon.

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Less-is-More Approach to Pain Relief After Surgery

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Dr Deanne Jenkin PhD
UNSW Australia,
now Research Fellow at The Daffodil Centre
Sydney, Australia

Dr Jenkin

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

Response: At the time, long-term opioid use for chronic non-cancer pain was increasing and there were signs that their benefit was overestimated whilst the harms were underestimated. Our randomized trial found that after going home from fracture surgery, strong opioids were not better for pain relief compared to a milder, potentially safer opioid alternative.

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Physical Therapy After Knee Replacement Linked to Less Long Term Opioids for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Deepak Kumar, PT, PhD
Assistant Professor, Physical Therapy
Assistant Professor, BU School of Medicine
Director, Movement & Applied Imaging Lab

Dr. Kumar

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

Response: We investigated the association of physical therapy interventions with long-term opioid use in people who undergo total knee replacement surgery.   For people with advanced osteoarthritis, total knee replacement is the only option. The number of total knee replacement surgeries has been increasing and is expected to rise exponentially over the next few years with an aging population and rising rates of obesity. However, up to a third of patients continue to experience knee pain after this surgery. Also, a significant proportion of people become long-term opioid users after total knee replacement. Reliance on opioids may reflect a failure of pain management in these patients. Given that physical therapy interventions are known to be effective at managing pain due to knee osteoarthritis, we wanted to study whether physical therapy before or after surgery may reduce the likelihood of long-term opioid use.

We used real-world data from insurance claims for this study. In our cohort of about 67,000 patients who underwent knee replacement between 2001-2016, we observed that, receiving physical therapy within 90 days before surgery or outpatient physical therapy within 90 days after surgery were both related to lower likelihood of long-term opioid use later. We also observed that initiating outpatient physical therapy within 30 days and 6 or more sessions of physical therapy were associated with reduced likelihood of long-term opioid use compared to later initiation or fewer PT sessions, respectively. However, we did not see an association between type of physical therapy. i.e., active (e.g., exercsise) vs. passive (e.g., TENS) and long-term opioid use.

Importantly, most of our findings were consistent for people who had or had not used opioids previously. We also were able to account of a larger number of potential factors that could confound these associations because of the large sample size. However, there are limitations to our work. Since we only had access to insurance claims data but not to health records, we are unable to make any inferences about association of physical therapy with pain or quality of life, etc.

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Dentists Continue to Prescribe Opioids to Adolescents for Pain Relief

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Adriane Fugh-Berman MD
Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Physiology
Georgetown University Medical Center

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

Response: The first exposure of adolescents and young people to opioids is through dentists, who frequently prescribe opioids after dental procedures. Dentists are the highest prescribers of opioids to patients under 18. We conducted a national survey of dentists and received 269 responses from 30 states and 2 territories.

Four of five dentists knew that  that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-acetaminophen combinations are equally as effective or more effective than opioids, but 43% still  regularly prescribed opioids. There was more caution about prescribing opioids  to adolescents aged 11 through 18 years, but only half ( 48%) reported they were less likely to prescribe opioids to young adults 19 -25 years (compared to adults over 25). This is concerning  because adolescents and young adults under 25 are more likely to develop opioid use disorder than adults over 25. 

One-half of those who reported prescribing opioids reported prescribing more opioids than needed, which would result in leftover pills. Leftover pills  pose a risk for later misuse. 

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Tramadol Prescriptions for Pain Relief Linked to More Complications than Codeine

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Carlen Reyes PhD
Médico de familia
Gestora de proyectos de investigación IDIAP Jordi Gol

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

Response: Tramadol and codeine are two “weak” opioids frequently prescribed for different non-cancer pain indications, however, few are the studies that compare the adverse outcomes between them using large routinely collected primary care data. We aimed to fulfil this gap by analysing the risk of adverse events with the tramadol and codeine dispensations in a large primary care health care data (SIDIAP database) from Spain. 

We found that the dispensations of tramadol were associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular events, mortality and fractures compared to the dispensations of codeine. 

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Study Finds Medical Cannabis Not Likely to Solve Opioid Crisis for Pain Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Carsten Hjorthøj, senior Researcher
Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health – CORE, Mental Health Center Copenhagen, Copenhagen University Hospital
University of Copenhagen, Department of Public Health
Section of Epidemiology, Copenhagen, Denmark.

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

Response: Denmark introduced a pilot program of medical cannabis in 2018. Medical cannabis, and cannabis-based medicine, has gained a lot of both attention and controversy as a possible way to treat pain disorders, but the evidence base is still sparse. The Danish nationwide unselected registers allow us to perform a high quality pharmacoepidemiologic study with propensity score matched controls.

The main findings are that medical cannabis and cannabis-based medicine did not reduce the use of opioids in pain patients, and might actually lead to an increase in use of opioids. However, patients with neuropathic pain disorders appeared to reduce their use of gabapentin, their use of overall medication (but not opioids!), and the number of days spent in hospital, compared with controls.

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Pronounced Declines, but Regional Differences, in Hospital Use of Prescription Opioids

Sarah A. Eidbo, MS
MD Candidate
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine Class of 2023
Scranton, Pennsylvania

Sarah A. Eidbo

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

Response: The United States is still witnessing the fallout from years of a devastating, multifaceted opioid crisis. However, in the wake of this situation, healthcare providers and systems across the nation have implemented many strategies to curb the damage where they can. This study1 used reports from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)2 to quantify the changes and trends in prescription opioid distribution to hospitals in the U.S .over the past two decades.

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Switching to Buprenorphine Might Provide Pain Relief for Poorly Controlled Pain

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Victoria D. Powell, MD, FACP
Clinical Lecturer – Geriatric and Palliative Medicine
University of Michigan
Staff Physician, Palliative Care
LTC Charles S. Kettles VA Medical Center
Ann Arbor, MI

Dr. Powell

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

Response: People with chronic pain who use long-term opioids face a number of health risks, and often do not have optimally controlled pain.

Buprenorphine acts on the opioid receptor with a different effect than drugs like morphine or oxycodone, and as a result is less associated with the risks of long-term opioid use, such as accidental overdose. While buprenorphine has been successfully used in patients with opioid use disorder for several years, certain experts have proposed using buprenorphine for pain management in people with chronic pain. We found low quality evidence supporting pain control that may be superior to traditional opioids, but much more research is needed to confirm.

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Physicians Differently Prescribe Pain Relief Medications to White and Minority Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Dan P. Ly M.D., M.P.P., Ph.D.
Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles

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

Response: We know that minority patients were less likely to receive opioids than white patients, but this could have been due to minority patients seeing lower opioid-prescribing physicians. As far as I could tell, nobody had been able to examine whether the same physician prescribed opioids differently to their minority patients.

I find that this is the case: the same physician was less likely to prescribe opioids to their minority patients with new low back pain, and instead was more likely to prescribe NSAIDs to their minority patients. And unfortunately, this differential prescribing may have had the consequence of leading to more chronic opioid use in white patients.  

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Overdose Rates Increased When Pain Meds Prescribed by Multiple Providers

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD
Department of Pediatrics
Susan B. Meister Child Health Evaluation and Research Center,
Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health,
University of Michigan Ann Arbor

Dr. Kao-Ping Chua

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

Response: Having overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions is a strong risk factor for opioid overdose even if these prescriptions are written by the same prescriber.

In this study of privately insured and Medicare Advantage patients, we show that the risk of overdose is even greater when the prescriptions are written by multiple prescribers. Specifically, the unadjusted risk of overdose on a day of overlap was 1.8 times higher when the prescriptions were written by multiple prescribers. After controlling for patient demographic characteristics, clinical co-morbidities, and prescribing patterns, the adjusted odds of overdose was 1.2 times higher, corresponding roughly to a 20% higher adjusted risk.

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