Painkiller Overuse Among Elderly
If your doctor prescribes potent narcotic opioids for pain management, don't be too quick to fill that scrip at your pharmacy. A recent investigation by Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today turned up evidence that physicians and drug makers are often in collusion when it comes to urging patients to forgo common OTC pain relievers in lieu of expensive and potentially addictive or even lethal meds such as hydrocodone (brand name Vicodin among others) and oxycodone (brand name Percocet among others.)
As MedPage Today made clear, years ago powerful narcotics were prescribed primarily for cancer pain and short-term relief immediately after surgery or an accident, but increasingly, "the drugs have been prescribed for chronic pain, an area where their safety and effectiveness is unproven, especially for older patients." MedPage Today also reports that according to a healthcare information company, "since 2007 top-selling opioids dispensed to people 60 years and older have increased 32%." The MedPage Today report goes on to say that the increase "has been fueled in part by doctors and pain advocacy organizations that receive money from drug companies and make misleading claims about the safety and effectiveness of opioids, including a reassuring statement that that 'addiction is rare' in elderly populations."
That claimruns counter to the experience of Stephen Abram, MD, a pain specialist and professor of anesthesiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who told MedPage Today that patients often build up a tolerance for the drugs and need ever-higher doses." It's really, really hard to wean these people off," he said. "Some of these patients are clearly on the drugs because they are addicted to them."