Study: Nonopioids are just as effective as opioids for treating arthritis, back pain

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Nonopioid pain medications are just as effective as opioid painkillers in the long-term treatment of osteoarthritis and chronic back pain, according to a study presented Friday at the 2017 Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

For the study, researchers from the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Healthcare System monitored 240 veterans with chronic back pain or osteoarthritis for one year. Participants were either prescribed opioids or nonopioid pain medications to treat their pain.

Over the study period, pain interference with activities improved among both patient cohorts. The nonopioid group also reported higher reductions in pain intensity, according to the report. Overall, researchers noted the number of adverse symptoms reports did not vary between the groups, but the opioid cohort experienced a wider array of adverse effects.

"Opioids are perceived as strong pain relievers, but our data showed no benefits of opioid therapy over nonopioid medication therapy for pain," said Erin Krebs, MD, a researcher with the Minneapolis VA Health Care System and the study's lead author, according to an emailed release. "We already knew that opioids carry more risks of serious harms for patients. These new findings support the CDC recommendation that nonopioid therapies are preferred over opioids for long-term pain treatment."

More articles on opioids: 
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