Number of Children and Teens Hospitalized for Opioid Overdoses Almost Tripled

A new study finds the number of young children and teens hospitalized for opioid painkiller overdoses has almost tripled in recent years.

Opioid overdoses increased 205 percent from 1997 to 2012 among children ages 1 to 4, HealthDay reports. Among teens ages 15 to 19, overdoses increased 176 percent.

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In Many Countries, Difficulty in Accessing Opioid Painkillers Causes Suffering

As the United States tackles the challenge of opioid painkiller addiction, people in many parts of the world are suffering from pain because doctors are reluctant to prescribe opioids.

Opioids are restricted, and often unavailable, in most poor and middle-incomes countries, even for patients with AIDS, terminal cancer or serious war wounds, according to The New York Times.

Many doctors in Russia, India and Mexico are fearful they could be prosecuted or subject to other legal problems if they prescribe opioids, the article notes.

Health officials in Kenya recently authorized the production of morphine after it was revealed that the painkiller was only available in seven of the nation’s 250 public hospitals. The advocacy group Human Rights Watch reported earlier this year that only a small percentage of doctors in Morocco are allowed to prescribe opioid painkillers. The country’s law on controlled substances identifies opioids as poisons.

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Opana ER Maker to Stop Marketing Drug as Crush-Resistant Under NY Settlement

The maker of the long-acting painkiller Opana ER has agreed to stop marketing the drug as crush-resistant, under a settlement with New York State. The company also agreed to accurately describe the risk of addiction to the drug, Reuters reports.

Under the agreement with New York State, Endo Health Solutions and Endo Pharmaceuticals will also pay a $200,000 penalty, according to New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. He said the company’s own studies found Opana ER could be crushed and ground. “This may have bolstered Opana ER sales, but provided a false sense of security to health care providers and their patients,” according to a statement by Schneiderman’s office.

The Attorney General also found that Endo improperly instructed its sales representatives to “diminish and distort risks associated with Opana ER, including serious dangers involving addiction,” Schneiderman’s office stated.

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Study Urges Caution in Giving Some Patients Opioids Before Knee Surgery

A new study suggests that in some patients undergoing a total knee replacement, taking opioid painkillers before the operation may increase the risk of being on opioids much longer afterwards. The drugs may also increase the risk of complications after surgery,Medscape reports.

Total knee replacement, or total knee arthroplasty, is a surgical procedure in which parts of the knee joint are replaced with artificial parts.

“Narcotic use can be dangerous. We need to understand how much to give and why we’re giving it,” lead researcher Robert Westermann, MD of the Department of Orthopedics at the University of Iowa said at the recent American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons 2016 Annual Meeting. He added that initiatives that encourage orthopedic surgeons to decrease the use of opioids are needed.

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Federal Effort to Curb Painkiller Prescribing Faces Opposition

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) face stiff opposition to its effort to reduce prescribing of opioid painkillers, the Associated Press reports. Critics of new prescribing guidelines include drug manufacturers, industry-funded groups and some public health officials.

The guidelines, which were originally scheduled to be released this month, are designed to reverse the increase in deadly overdoses of opioid painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet. They are not binding.

Opponents of the guidelines say they have been largely written behind closed doors, the AP notes. Officials from the Food and Drug Administration and other health agencies called the guidelines “shortsighted,” relying on “low-quality evidence.” The officials said they plan to file a formal complaint.

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