Opioids Can Lead to Longer Hospital Stays and Higher Costs

Opioids Can Lead to Longer Hospital Stays and Higher Costs

bigstock-Praying-In-Hospital-2139827Patients who had adverse reactions to opioids used to treat their post-surgical pain spent an average of three extra days in the hospital and had thousands of dollars in additional medical expenses, according to an industry funded study published in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy.

Researchers studied a national database of patients at 380 hospitals in the U.S. who had nearly 320,000 inpatient surgeries and received opioids for their post-surgical pain management. Over 12 percent of the patients had an opioid related adverse event (ORAE), such as respiratory depression, nausea, drowsiness, itching, dry mouth and constipation.

The analysis found that patients with ORAEs stayed longer in the hospital, were more likely to be re-admitted and had higher costs than patients who did not have an adverse reaction to opioids:

  • Patients with OREAs were hospitalized 3.3 days longer (7.6 days vs. 4.2 days).
  • Had a $4,707 average increase in hospitalization cost ($22,077 vs. $17,370).
  • Had a higher readmission rate (15.8% vs. 9.4%) within 30 days for all causes.

“Based on a review of a large, nationally representative patient sample, we were able to correlate and quantify the impact of opioid-related adverse events on the length and cost of hospitalization after surgery,” said lead author Gary Oderda, PharmD, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Utah College of Pharmacy.

“Although opioids have long been the mainstay of postsurgical pain control, a growing body of evidence similar to ours suggests the need to re-examine the benefit-risk profile of an opioid-centric pain management paradigm and explore alternative modalities.”

Dr. Odera and his research team received funding for the study from Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: PCRX) a pharmaceutical company focused on developing non-opioid products for postsurgical pain control. Its lead product is Exparel, a long-lasting non-opioid analgesic that is designed to be injected into patients at the close of surgery.

“For years, we’ve had clinical evidence about the prevalence of opioid-related adverse events, particularly in certain patient populations, as illustrated by the recent Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alert that detailed the risk for respiratory depression among specific patient types,” said Dave Stack, President and CEO of Pacira Pharmaceuticals, Inc. “Dr. Oderda’s research contributes to a growing body of socioeconomic evidence that quantifies the significant costs these adverse events impose on both the healthcare system and on patient quality of life, furthering the case for a new, non-opioid based approach to postsurgical pain management.”

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Jennifer Klumpyan-Dougherty at 10:53 am

    I would have read this article with more of an open mind had the study that Dr. Odera conducted was not funded and directed by a pharmaceutical company focused on developing non-opioid products. This is a misleading article and should in no way be a normal plan of post surgical care. I am a RN and work in post anesthesia care where pain management is the main focus for my patients. There are some individuals that do have adverse reactions to opioid based medications, but that does not mean that it is not safe for the majority of post surgical patients. I feel it is irresponsible for THE NATIONAL PAIN REPORT to even promote this article without offering information on the benefits of opioid medications for post-surgical pain. As the adverse reactions listed some of them can be managed with proper education to the patient and their family, such as constipation.. a stool softener or mild laxative should be a standard protocol of treatment for anyone taking opioid medications be IV, IM or oral routes. Anti-emetics can counteract the nausea, and even non-pharmacology treatments are available for these adverse reactions… The one that is the most dangerous and life threatening is respiratory depression and can only be controlled by supportive actions and discontinued use of the medication. People should not be scared into submissiveness when it comes to pain control and sharing this study will do just that… I hope that in the future when you an article like this is posted you can be responsible enough to also follow it with information that will give a complete picture and be responsible for providing ALL the information so individuals with have the knowledge to make informed decisions based on proven medical practice. Adverse reactions do NOT occur in all patients and denying someone pain control post-op based on a study from a pharmaceutical company trying to promote their own new drug is irresponsible.

  2. Andy lastname at 10:57 am

    So, are they proposing that we use antidepressants, NSAIDS, or anticonvulsants for post operative pain? I’m sure if other types of pain medicines were used, the results would be similar. Whether a person has a bad response to a medicine or not is determined by genetics. This “study,” seems to imply that opioids somehow have a higher rate of adverse effects as well as more serious adverse effects. But, that is not really a fair comparison since no other medicines that can be used to treat pain were compared.

    It is fundamentally unfair and unscientific to test/analyze only one class of pain medicines and then declare they cause more problems than the other classes.

  3. Mark S. Barletta at 2:41 pm

    Opiates are not for everyone, some people will have adverse side effects and non opioid medications would be best for them. However it is people get pain control its imperative that they get the correct treatment for thier pain.

    Mark S. Barletta