Study Finds Opioids Provide Chronic Pain Relief for at Least Three Months

SEPTEMBER 07, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick
pain management, addiction medicine, chronic pain, opioids, prescription drugs, painkillers, pharmacy, PAINWeek 2016

The subjectivity of pain is just one of the reasons that it’s challenging to manage. A common strategy comes in the form of prescription drugs, which poses its own set of challenges. Therefore, it isn’t clear how well opioids actually work.

In a poster presentation at PAINWeek 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada, researchers aimed to find long-term efficacy with opioids versus placebo.

The analysis included 15 studies from the MEDLINE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials. All of the studies lasted for at least 12 weeks and consisted of double-blinded outcomes. Ten of the studies involved chronic low back pain. Prescriptions included hydrocodone (four studies), oxymorphone (two studies), oxycodone (two studies), buprenorphine (two studies), hydromorphone (one study), morphine/naltrexone (one study), and tramadol (one study).

The opioids proved to be significantly more effective than the placebos from baseline to the 12-week mark. However, there was also a statistically significant association with discontinuing the studies due to an adverse event, when compared to placebo.

“The overall weighted mean discontinuation rate was numerically higher for placebo (42.1%) than study drug (31%), probably due to discontinuation due to lack of efficacy in the placebo group,” the authors explained.

These results indicate that opioids are effective for at least up to three months, and can help physicians and patients make decisions when weighing the benefits and risks.

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