Friday, September 23, 2016

More than 100 million prescription opioids for dental surgery unused by patients, study projects

Fifty-four percent of prescription painkillers—more than 100 million pills—prescribed each year for surgical tooth extraction remain unused after three weeks, says a study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence. Researchers say the surplus is troubling, because studies show that people who abuse opioids often use leftover pills that were prescribed to friends and erlatives.

The study, of 79 patients prescribed prescription painkillers after dental surgery, found that only five took all the pills they were prescribed. "The majority of patients (94 percent) received a prescription for an opioid medication to manage pain, with 82 percent also receiving a prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), and 78 percent received a prescription antibiotic. On average, participants who did not have post-surgical complications (93 percent) received prescriptions containing 28 opioid pills, but three weeks following surgery had only used 13, leaving more than 1,000 unused opioid pills."

Researchers say most patients stopped taking the pills within five days because they were no longer in pain. When asked to rate pain on a scale of 1 to 10, patients reported an average score of 5 only 24 hours after surgery, 51 percent said from zero to 3 on the second day, and 80 percent reported no pain after five days.

Co-author Elliot V. Hersh wrote: “Research shows that prescription-strength NSAIDs, like ibuprofen, combined with acetaminophen, can offer more effective pain relief and fewer adverse effects than opioid-containing medications. While opioids can play a role in acute pain management after surgery, they should only be added in limited quantities for more severe pain.” (Read more)

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