Postoperatively Prescribed Opioids Often Go Unused

HealthDay News — Postoperative prescription opioids are often unused and improperly disposed of, according to a review published online in JAMA Surgery.

Mark C. Bicket, MD, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a systematic review to quantify how commonly postoperative prescription opioids are unused, why they remain unused, and what practices are followed regarding their storage and disposal. Oversupply was defined as the number of patients with either filled but unused opioid prescriptions or unfilled opioid prescriptions.

Based on 6 studies (with 810 unique patients undergoing 7 different types of surgical procedures), the researchers found that between 67% and 92% of patients reported unused opioids (42% to 71% of all the opioid tablets). 

Opioids were stopped or not used because of adequate pain control (71% to 83% of patients) or opioid-induced adverse effects (16% to 29% of patients). Low rates of anticipated or actual disposal were reported in all studies. Further, no study reported that more than 9% of patients used US Food and Drug Administration-recommended disposal methods.

“Postoperative prescription opioids often go unused, unlocked, and undisposed, suggesting an important reservoir of opioids contributing to nonmedical use of these products, which could cause injuries or even deaths,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pain management industry.

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Bicket MC, Long JJ, Pronovost PJ, Alexander GC, Wu CL. Prescription opioid analgesics commonly unused after surgery: a systematic review [published online August 2, 2017]. JAMA Surg. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2017.0831