Middle-aged women prescribed the most opioids post-surgery

Clinicians prescribed enough post-surgical opioids in 2016 to provide every American with 36 pills each, according to research conducted by the QuintilesIMS Institute and sponsored by Pacira Pharmaceuticals.

For the report — titled "The United States for Non-Dependence" — researchers analyzed drugs prescribed to 2,075 patients after inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures performed at 600 private hospitals. Researchers used this dataset to create a projected representation for 1.7 million surgical patients. Surgery types included hernia, total knee replacement and colectomy, among others. Additionally, researchers analyzed medical and pharmacy claims data compiled in the QuintilesIMS Institute pharmacy database from 2014 through 2016. The database included a sample of 78,129 surgical patients across the U.S. who were opioid naïve prior to surgery.

Here are five report findings.

1. While opioid prescriptions decreased by 6 percent from 2015 to 2016, they remained one of the most widely used prescription drugs in the nation. Providers prescribed 11.7 billion opioid pills in 2016, which amounts to 36 pills for every man, woman and child in the country.

2. Nine in 10 surgical patients received opioids to treat post-surgical pain in 2016. This prescribing rate flooded communities with 3.3 billion unused opioid pills for potential misuse.

3. Middle-aged women received the most opioid prescriptions post-surgery. Providers prescribed twice as many opioids to female surgical patients aged 40 to 59 years compared to their male counterparts.

4. Nearly 3 million surgical patients became long-term opioid users in 2016.

5. Of the seven surgical procedures examined, researchers found colectomy and knee replacement patients were most likely to become a long-term opioid user. Nearly 18 percent of colectomy patients and nearly 17 percent of knee replacement patients became newly persistent opioid users after surgery in 2016.    

More articles on opioids: 
CDC rolls out opioid awareness campaign 
Prescribing opioids in the ER less likely to result in long-term use 
7 ways clinicians can help reduce opioid misuse and addiction

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