Study: Opioids may not be more effective than other medication

The study suggested that opioids might not treat chronic pain, such as hip or knee arthritis conditions, any better than non-opioid medication

By EMS1 Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — A new study suggests that opioids might not be any more effective than non-opioid medication alternatives when it comes to treating chronic pain.

The University of Minnesota study suggested that doctors might want to limit opioid prescriptions for patients who suffer from chronic conditions such as hip or knee arthritis pain.

“A lot of prescribers have been waiting for a study like this,” College of Pharmacy assistant professor Laura Palombi told Minnesota Daily. “We’ve seen the harms of opioids, and we know people do benefit from them and not everyone gets addicted to them, but it’s nice to see how they actually compare.”

Researchers recruited 240 patients with chronic pain and treated some with opioids such as oxycodone or morphine and others with acetaminophen. They found that “treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with non-opioid medications for improving pain-related function over 12 months.”

Lead author Erin Krebs said that when she was in school in the early 2000s, experts did not suggest opioids and said they were not effective. However, doctors later strongly recommended them.

“I was a student at the time and it was interesting to see the advice change in a short period of time,” Krebs said. “That made me interested in looking into this.”

Family medicine and community health assistant professor Robert Levy said he thinks the switch was influenced by drug companies in medical schools.

“Every doctor says they are impartial, and of course the drug companies never said what to do, but the education was shaped by drug companies,” he said.

Levy added that the study should help doctors discuss treatment options with chronic pain patients, but since opioids are easy to prescribe due to Americans being very accepting of them, it will take more to solve the epidemic.

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