Epilepsy drugs linked to increased risk of suicidal behavior, particularly in young people

Treatment with gabapentinoids — a group of drugs used for epilepsy, nerve pain and anxiety disorders — is associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviour, unintentional overdose, injuries, and road traffic incidents, finds a study from Sweden published by The BMJ today.

Prescriptions have risen steeply in recent years, and gabapentinoids are among the top 15 drugs globally in terms of revenue.

The risks are strongest among 15 to 24 year-olds, prompting the researchers to suggest that treatment guidelines for young people should be reviewed.

Previous studies have linked gabapentinoids to suicidal behaviour and overdose related deaths, but findings have been inconsistent and data on longer term harms are lacking.

Full story at Science Daily

More States Say Doctors Must Offer Overdose Reversal Drug Along With Opioids

In a growing number of states, patients who get opioids for serious pain may leave their doctors’ offices with a second prescription — for naloxone, a drug that can save their lives if they overdose on the powerful painkillers.

New state laws and regulations in California, Virginia, Arizona, Ohio, Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island require physicians to “co-prescribe” or at least offer naloxone prescriptions when prescribing opioids to patients considered at high risk of overdosing. Patients can be considered at high risk if they need a large opioid dosage, take certain other drugs or have sleep apnea or a history of addiction.

Such co-prescribing mandates are emerging as the latest tactic in a war against an epidemic of prescription and illegal opioids that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives over the past two decades.

Full story at Kaiser Health News

Drug overdose rates are rising, but can we ‘curb the epidemic for good?’

Drugs kill thousands of people in the United States and globally every year. New research may help develop more effective methods to curb the epidemic.

“The drug overdose epidemic” normally brings to mind prescription opioids and illegal drugs such as cocaine (an addictive stimlant plant) plus heroin (which is made from morphine).

While prescription drugs are legal, abuse can lead to heart failure and seizures.

Full story at Medical News Today

Drug overdose epidemic has been growing exponentially for decades

Death rates from drug overdoses in the U.S. have been on an exponential growth curve that began at least 15 years before the mid-1990s surge in opioid prescribing, suggesting that overdose death rates may continue along this same historical growth trajectory for years to come, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health analysis published today in Science.

The type of drug and the demographics of those who die from overdoses has fluctuated over the years. When the use of one drug waned, a new drug filled in, attracting new populations from different geographic regions at faster rates. These findings suggest that, to be successful, prevention efforts must extend beyond control of specific drugs to address deeper factors driving the epidemic.

“The current epidemic of overdose deaths due to prescription opioids, heroin and fentanyl appears to be the most recent manifestation of a more fundamental, longer-term process,” said senior author Donald S. Burke, M.D., Pitt Public Health dean and UPMC-Jonas Salk Chair of Global Health. “Understanding the forces holding these multiple individual drug epidemics together in a tight upward exponential trajectory will be important in revealing the root causes of the epidemic, and this understanding could be crucial to prevention and intervention strategies.”

Full story at Science Daily

Patients receive most opioids at the doctor’s office, not the ER

Around the country, state legislatures and hospitals have tightened emergency room prescribing guidelines for opioids to curb the addiction epidemic, but a new USC study shows that approach diverts attention from the main sources of prescription painkillers.

Overall opioid prescribing skyrocketed 471 percent from 1996 to 2012, according to the study by USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics and Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The share of opioids prescribed from emergency departments was small and declined during that 17-year period from 7.4 percent to 4.4 percent. The share of opioids prescribed from doctor’s offices was much larger and actually increased during that period from 71 percent to 83 percent.

Full story at Science Daily