Non-opioid pain relief outperforms opioids for chronic pain, study shows

Non-opioid pain relief outperforms opioids for chronic pain, study shows

Non-opioid pain relief outperforms opioids for chronic pain, study shows

While the study may have useful implications for the specific type of chronic pain studied, the study is being touted by many as evidence that in general, opioids aren't more effective than over-the-counter and non-opioid pain medication - which many people with chronic pain say is incorrect. If the prescription didn't work, it would be changed, selecting from drugs that had been shortlisted.

Bottom Line: Opioid medications were not better at improving pain that interfered with activities such as walking, work and sleep over 12 months for patients with chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain compared to nonopioid medications. The workers' compensation industry's approach to chronic pain historically has been trying drugs and other medical procedures first.

One possibility is that patients in the opioid group developed tolerance to the drugs, Krebs said. Many people get hooked while taking opioids prescribed for injuries or other short-term pain and move on to cheaper, more accessible illicit drugs like heroin. The report did not break down overdoses by type of opioid.

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"This is a very important study", said Dr. David Reuben, geriatrics chief at UCLA's medical school.

The opioid group took immediate-release morphine, oxycodone, or hydrocodone/acetaminophen (generic Vicodin).

The study comes as USA leaders and medical professionals work toward a solution to the growing opioid epidemic as overdose deaths related to both abuse and misuse of prescription opioids and illegal narcotics claim the lives of more than a hundred people in the US each day. They could switch to higher doses or long-acting opioids or fentanyl patches if desired. The other group was given strictly nonopioids you can buy over-the-counter like acetaminophen (such as the drug Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen. They also could switch to higher doses or prescription nonopioid pain pills.

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This was a randomized clinical trial (RCT).

Patients reported changes in function or pain on questionnaires. When the treatment was started, the opioid and non-opioid groups scored nearly exactly the same on both intensity and functionality.

But Tuesday's publication of the full results in the Journal of the American Medical Association could have additional impact, Krebs said, because policymakers nationally have had little comparative data on whether opioids work well enough to justify their risks.

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The group that took opioids didn't do particularly well in either category-in fact, the group that wasn't on opioids reported less pain; the group scored, on average, a half-point lower on a "pain intensity" scale ranging from one to 10.

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