How many opioid painkillers do surgery patients need? New prescribing recommendations unveiled

How many prescription pain pills should a patient receive after breast cancer surgery? Or a hernia repair? Or a gallbladder removal?

With the country facing an epidemic of opioid pain medication abuse, the answer should be simple: Just enough to ease patients’ immediate post-surgery pain.

But surgical teams have lacked an evidence-based guide, or even rules of thumb, to help them prescribe powerful opioid pain medications wisely.

Until now.

A new tool developed at the University of Michigan is now available online for free use by any team that performs 11 common operations. It’s based on data and surveys from surgery patients across the state of Michigan, and on research by U-M researchers who study pain control and surgical quality.

Full story at Science Daily

Online Tool Tracks Suspected Opioid Overdoses in Real Time

A new online tool allows first responders, public safety and public health officials to track opioid overdoses in real time, NBC News reports. Health officials say the data allows them to quickly allocate resources where they are needed.

First responders can access the tool, the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP), from any mobile device or computer when they go to the scene of an overdose. They enter whether the overdose was fatal or nonfatal and whether the opioid overdose antidote naloxone was administered. The results appear on a map, which police chiefs and other officials can use to see where overdoses are being reported.

Full story at drugfree.org

Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study.

Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found.

Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports.

Full story at drugfree.org

Defining optimal opioid pain medication prescription length following surgery

A new study led by researchers at the Center for Surgery and Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital analyzed opioid prescription data from the Department of Defense Military Health System Data Repository, identifying more than 200,000 opioid-naïve individuals who had undergone one of eight common surgical procedures between 2006 and 2014 and were subsequently prescribed opioid pain medication. Their findings appear in JAMA Surgery as a featured article for the week of Sept. 27.

Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Misuse of and addiction to opioids has become a public health crisis with more than 2 million Americans suffering from substance abuse issues related to prescription opioid pain medication. While over-prescription of pain medications has been implicated as a driver of this growing opioid epidemic, few guidelines exist on how to appropriately prescribe opioid pain medication following surgery with the goal of balancing pain with risk of addiction. There have been several recent governmental efforts to address the rise in opioid pain medication prescriptions, which quadrupled between 1999 and 2012. In Mass. and New York, legislation has limited initial prescription lengths to less than seven days and driven the development of drug monitoring programs.

Full story at Science Daily

CVS Sets Limits on Opioid Prescriptions

CVS announced it will set limits on opioid prescriptions and add in-store disposal units for consumers so they can drop off unwanted and unused medications.

CVS said it wants to ensure that opioids are being prescribed and used appropriately, consistent with guidelines for prescribing opioids set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a company news release, CVS will limit the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions to seven days; limit the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid; and require the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed.

Full story at drugfree.org