It’s no secret that the United States is in the midst of what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated an opioid overdose epidemic. It seems the widespread practice of prescribing opioids to relieve the chronic pain of those who are not terminally ill (a practice unprecedented just two decades ago) has caught up with us, dramatically increasing the rate of both addiction and overdose deaths.
Opioids—prescription opioids, heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, etc.—claimed more than 42,000 American lives in 2016, and 40% of these involved the prescription variety. What’s more, the CDC states that overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999, a period during which the sale of prescription opioids quadrupled with cooperation and encouragement from pharmaceutical companies.
How we got here is one thing, but how do we get out?
In March, a Minnesota-based study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association made international headlines when it reported that opioids are no better than non-opioid medications for relieving two common sources of chronic musculoskeletal pain: back pain and hip and knee osteoarthritis. This groundbreaking study was the first randomized controlled trial to directly compare the effectiveness of long-term opioid treatment with non-opioid medications.
“I think what [our study] changes is that we now know that these drugs are not only causing death and causing addiction, but they don't have any additional benefit for [chronic] pain,” says the study’s lead author, Associate Professor Dr. Erin Krebs. “People are willing to risk even serious harm sometimes if they think they're going to get more effective pain management. This study suggests that that benefit just isn't there.” [MinnPost, 3/12/2018]
Join us May 3, when Dr. Krebs shines a light on the post-opioid era. She will discuss her ongoing research into the benefits and harms of opioids, including the recent landmark study, as well as non-opioid approaches to pain management.
Erin E. Krebs, MD, University of Minnesota; MPH, Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation Clinical Scholars Program, University of North Carolina, is associate professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota and a core investigator at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research. A general internist with an active primary care practice, Krebs also serves as the women’s health medical director for the Minneapolis VA Health Care System. Her research focuses on chronic pain management and the benefits and harms of opioid analgesics. Kreb’s is the recipient of a five-year RWJ Foundation Faculty Physician Scholars/VA Career Development Award, and recently completed the landmark VA-funded SPACE trial, which compared opioid therapy versus non-opioid pain medication therapy. In addition to her research and practice, Krebs has contributed to numerous national efforts, including being a member of the CDC’s Opioid Prescribing Guidelines Core Expert Group, and the of the National Center for Injury Prevention’s Control Board of Scientific Counselors’ Opioid Guideline Workgroup. She currently serves as an American College of Physicians clinical representative to the American Medical Association Opioid Task Force.
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