DEA Says Tracking of Opioids From Manufacturers to Pharmacies Has Improved

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The acting chief of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) told the House Energy and Committee this week the agency is doing a better job of tracking the flow of opioid painkillers from manufacturers to pharmacies, The Washington Pos t reports. Robert Patterson told the committee the database that monitors the flow of opioid painkillers, known as ARCOS, used to be compiled manually. The DEA has computerized the database, which gives the agency a better sense of how many pills are being shipped. The agency can also analyze data from state prescription drug-monitoring programs and the Department of Health and Human Services. Patterson said the modernization of ARCOS is allowing the agency to use it in a “much more proactive manner” than in the past.
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People Who Live With Someone Taking Painkillers More Likely to Get Own Rx

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A new study finds that people who live with someone with a prescription for opioid painkillers are more likely to get their own prescription for opioids. The findings come from an analysis of 12.6 million people living in a household in which someone was prescribed opioids, and 6.4 million people in homes in which someone was prescribed nonprescription steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain. The study found 11.83 percent of people living with someone prescribed opioids and 11.11 percent of people living with a person prescribed NSAIDs started taking opioids over the next year, Reuters reports. While the increase in risk was small, lead study author Marissa Seamans of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore said it matters “because millions of opioids are prescribed and have harmful effects.” The study appears in JAMA Internal Medicine .
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State Workers Compensation Programs Try to Stem Overprescribing of Opioids

State Workers Compensation Programs Try to Stem Overprescribing of Opioids
State workers compensation programs are trying to curtail the overprescribing of opioid painkillers to workers who are injured on the job, according to the Associated Press. About 2.8 million private industry employees and 752,000 public sector workers suffered nonfatal workplace injuries in 2015. More than half of those injuries resulted in time away from work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A survey by the industry group CompPharma found more than $1.5 billion was spent on opioids by workers compensation insurers in 2015. The New York Workers Compensation Board announced in October it would allow insurance companies to request hearings to determine whether a claimant should be weaned off opioids. In Ohio, new rules state reimbursement for opioid prescriptions can be denied it if is believed doctors are overprescribing or otherwise not following “best medical practices” in treated injured workers.
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Program Aims to Reduce Pain and Opioid Use After Surgery

Program Aims to Reduce Pain and Opioid Use After Surgery
Researchers at Stanford University are studying a pre-surgical online program that is designed to help patients better manage pain and reduce the use of opioid painkillers after surgery. The program, called “My Surgical Success,” helps patients develop a personalized pain-management plan to control the anxiety associated with anticipating surgical pain. The program teaches patients to dampen the pain processing in their nervous system, so they have more control over how much pain is impacting them and how much medicine they need to manage their post-surgical pain. “For many people, pain resolves after surgery, but there is a subset of patients for whom pain does not resolve,” says study lead researcher Beth Darnall, Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor in the Division of Pain Medicine at Stanford University. “We need to figure out how to best meet their needs so they’re not taking opioids forever and are able to get back to meaningful...
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Prescription Opioids Provided to Patients During Treatment For Opioid Addiction

Prescription Opioids Provided to Patients During Treatment For Opioid Addiction
More than two in five people receiving buprenorphine, a drug commonly used to treat opioid addiction, are also given prescriptions for other opioid painkillers - and two-thirds are prescribed opioids after their treatment is complete, a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study suggests. The findings, published in the journal Addiction , demonstrate the need for greater resources devoted to medication-assisted treatment, a common clinical tool to address the epidemic. The idea behind medication-assisted treatment is that patients are given low-dose opioids that produce some of the effects of opioids while staving off physical withdrawal symptoms. The low-dose opioids produce weaker effects than drugs such as oxycodone or heroin, which come with the risk of addiction and overdose. With medication-assisted treatment, rigorous studies have shown that patients are more able to remain healthy and productive members of society. An article in Medical News Today brought the stuidy to...
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Mixing of Opioids and Alcohol Make for a Dangerous Cocktail

Mixing of Opioids and Alcohol Make for a Dangerous Cocktail
A new study warns that drinking alcohol while taking powerful opioid painkillers can trigger a potentially deadly respiratory problem, particularly in seniors. In the study, report on by HeathDay , the researchers assessed how mixing the opioid painkiller oxycodone and alcohol affected 12 younger volunteers, aged 21 to 28, and 12 older volunteers, aged 66 to 77.  The study authors reported that taking just one oxycodone tablet with a modest amount of alcohol increased the risk of respiratory depression. The older volunteers were more likely than the younger ones to have repeated episodes where they temporarily stopped breathing. The study was published online Feb. 7 in the journal Anesthesiology .
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FDA Increases Warnings About Risk of Combining Opioids and Benzodiazepines

FDA Increases Warnings About Risk of Combining Opioids and Benzodiazepines
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped up warnings about the dangers of combing opioid painkillers with benzodiazepine sedatives. The agency is requiring new warnings on labels for opioids such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, as well as for benzodiazepines such as alprazolam and diazepam. Xanax is a commonly used benzodiazepine. A total of 389 drugs are covered by the new warnings, The Wall Street Journal reports. “It is nothing short of a public health crisis when you see a substantial increase of avoidable overdose and death related to two widely used drug classes being taken together,” FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, said in a news release.
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Most Patients Taking Opioid Painkillers Willing to Get Naloxone, Too

Most Patients Taking Opioid Painkillers Willing to Get Naloxone, Too
Most patients taking opioid painkillers are willing to fill a prescription for the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, a new small study suggests. Prescribing naloxone to patients taking opioid painkillers is increasingly recommended by medical guidelines, HealthDay reports. However, currently naloxone is not routinely prescribed to patients taking opioid painkillers, the article notes. The new study included 60 patients who received opioid painkiller prescriptions and were given prescriptions for naloxone. The study found 82 percent of patients filled their naloxone prescriptions. More than one-third of patients said they improved their drug-taking behavior after receiving naloxone. Some said they improved their handling of dosing and timing of doses. Three patients used naloxone to treat an apparent overdose.
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Patients in Pain Say It Has Become Harder to Get Opioid Painkillers

Patients in Pain Say It Has Become Harder to Get Opioid Painkillers
Patients suffering from chronic pain say they are finding it more difficult to get prescriptions for opioid painkillers, The Boston Globe reports. Federal and state regulations to reduce access to opioids have made doctors and pharmacists more reluctant to prescribe and dispense the drugs. Chronic pain patients say they are frequently required to prove they are not addicted to opioids, the article notes. An estimated 100 million adults in the United States are thought to suffer from chronic pain. In many cases, the pain is caused by injury, disease or nervous system problems. There are a number of non-opioid treatments available, including anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, devices such as spinal stimulators, physical therapy and meditation. While these treatments rarely stop the pain, patients often use a variety of these options to help them cope with it. Some patients see opioids as critical in helping them deal with their pain. Claire Sampson,...
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Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions

Some Dental Schools Training Students to Reduce Opioid Painkiller Prescriptions
Some dental schools are training their students to reduce the amount of opioid painkillers they prescribe for their surgical patients. Dentists are among the leading prescribers of opioids, especially for surgical tooth extractions, NBC News reports. The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine is training students to give their surgical patients detailed explanations of the best way to take opioids and dispose of them. They give patients a two-week prescription that is not refillable. “I think we find today that prescribing needs to include both education as well as dispensing,” said Dr. Paul Moore, professor of pharmacology and anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. “We teach all of our students here if you’re going to write a prescription for an opioid it is important to follow our checklist that includes the kinds of information that you need to provide that patient.” As many as half...
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