Wednesday, March 19, 2014

New ACOEM Opioid Guidelines: I Hope You're Sitting Down

Reed Group has published revised ACOEM Opioid Guidelines.  I hope you’re sitting down. 

These new guidelines are comprehensive, impressive, and should change the way you think about opioid use.  The question is no longer whether or not the medical evidence supports the view that long term opioid use is rarely appropriate.  The question now is: will your claims organization have the courage and wherewithal to use these guidelines to ensure patient safety and improve clinical outcomes?

A few highlights: 

Remember all of the discussion, education, and effort your claims organization went through to understand the concept of morphine equivalent dosage (MED) and the threshold of 120 mg MED daily, above which the risk of negative health consequences (like, for instance, death) rose significantly?  Well, after reviewing 960 references and 157 separate studies with 27 external peer reviewers, ACOEM has given us a new threshold…

50 mg daily MED. 

And they’re right.  The 120 mg MED threshold often comes too late in the treatment process to make meaningful impact and the clinical risks are observable at much lower dosage.   Here’s the proof (in laymen’s terms, the hazard ratio is the comparative or relative risk associated with a certain treatment vs. the control group.  In this case, MED at 50 mg/day suggests a death rate 3-5 times that of the control group). 

Remember how I’m always going on about the fact that there are no studies that support the long term use of opioids for non-malignant chronic pain management?  It’s nice to put some data around that statement:  the longest placebo-controlled trial lasted only…

4 months.

Specifically, of the 67 high-to-moderate quality placebo-controlled clinical trials addressing opioid use for chronic pain, 52% lasted a single month, 12% lasted 1-2 months, and 34% lasted 3 months.  There was a single trial that lasted longer than three months (and it lasted only 4 months). 

You know the pharmaceutical commercials that list all of the adverse side effects one might experience while on the medication?  The new ACOEM guidelines provide a list of those side effects in relation to long term opioid use.  Ready?

Heart attack or sudden death
Fainting on standing up
Sudden death
Nausea, abdominal pain, early satiety
Constipation, bowel obstruction
Abdominal pain
Urinary retention
Impotence or reduced sex drive and erectile dysfunction, osteoporosis, feminization, reduction of muscle mass, reduced strength
Reduced or abnormal menstrual periods
Fatigue, low blood pressure, electrolyte changes
Hastening of death if cancer is present
Rash, shortness of breath, itchy skin, edema
Outbursts, inappropriate behavior, limit testing, violence, reduced impulse control
Alterations in executive function, emotional response
Slight to severe impairments if an overdose occurs
Problems thinking clearly
Increased pain sensitivity, increasing doses of opioids/dose escalation
Reduced pleasure in eating, weight loss
Increased accident risks and unclear thoughts
Crash risk and reduced functioning
Unsafe operation of machinery, motor vehicles, motor vehicle crashes
Unsafe operation of machinery, falls
Mistaken judgment, changed interactions with other people
Altered mood, depressed feelings,
Suicidal feelings
Birth defects, miscarriage
Newborn babies of mothers on opioids go through opioid withdrawal
Reduced ability to breath during sleep; daytime sleepiness
New or increased problems with obstructive sleep apnea; daytime sleepiness
Worsening asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

I think I better understand why opioid manufacturers don’t advertise on television. 

On Twitter @PRIUM1

1 comment:

  1. Michael,
    Thank you for helping get the word out about the new opioid findings in the Reed Group DisabilityGuidelines. We hope that ACOEM's research and unambiguous recommendations will help turn more attention to the risks posed by misuse of opioids, and ultimately, reduce the body count. 16,000 fatalities a year is far too many in an age when sound guidance on risks/appropriate use is readily available online.