People taking highly addictive opioids managed their pain no better than patients taking safer medicines, according to a new study published in JAMA.
The study investigated the effects of opioids versus non-opioid medications in 240 patients with moderate to severe chronic back pain and hip or knee osteoarthritis pain who did not get relief from analgesics. It was the first randomized clinical trial comparing opioids to other types of pain medications.
Patients were observed over a 12-month period, after which researchers found that patients who used opioids – like morphine, Vicodin and OxyContin – did not have significantly improved pain-related function compared to patients taking non-opioid medications – like Tylenol, ibuprofen and lidocaine. In fact, patients in the non-opioid group said they felt less pain intensity than those taking an opioid. Patients who used opioids also were more likely to experience negative adverse events than those taking non-opioid drugs.
“Overall, opioids did not demonstrate any advantage over non-opioid medications that could potentially outweigh their greater risk of harms,” wrote lead researcher Dr. Erin Krebs with the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research.
Krebs said her impetus to tackle the study was the nation’s growing opioid epidemic. About 11.5 million people in the U.S. misused opioids in 2016, and more than 2 million were classified as having an opioid disorder, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than 42,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2016.
US News and World Report