Opioids prescribed post-surgery go unused more than 50% of the time

A study, published in JAMA Surgery, examined how commonly postoperative prescription opioids are unused and how they are stored or disposed of.

Researchers searched the MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases for studies focused on opioid oversupply after a surgical procedure on an adult. They defined opioid oversupply as the number of patients with either filled but unused opioid prescriptions or unfilled opioid prescriptions. Six studies, reporting on a total of 810 unique patients, met the research criteria.

Across the six studies, 67 percent to 92 percent of patients reported unused opioids. Of all the opioids obtained by surgical patients, 42 percent to 71 percent went unused.

Researchers found most patients stopped or did not use opioids due to adequate pain control, however 16 percent to 29 percent of patients reported opioid-induced adverse effects.

In two studies focused on opioid storage, 73 percent to 77 percent of patients reported the drugs were not stored in locked containers. Additionally, all studies showed low rates of anticipated or actual disposal.

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