THURSDAY, Sept. 6, 2018 -- Many patients who have nose surgery use far fewer opioid painkillers than they're given, evidence that doctors are overprescribing the highly addictive drugs, a new study suggests.
For the study, researchers reviewed 173 nose surgery (rhinoplasty) cases performed at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. Of those, 168 patients were prescribed opioids (such as OxyContin) along with acetaminophen (Tylenol), at an average of 28 opioid pills per patient.
Only two patients refilled their opioid prescriptions, and 11 percent did not fill their initial prescription, the study authors said.
"When we looked at the number of patients who needed refills, we found this near-negligible number," corresponding author Dr. David Shaye said in a hospital news release. Shaye is a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Mass Eye and Ear in Boston.
"This tells us that, as a field, we're probably overprescribing in rhinoplasty," he added.
Study co-author Dr. Linda Lee said, "After analyzing our data, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of opioids patients actually required after rhinoplasty, which is especially significant given the current opioid epidemic." Lee is also a facial plastic and reconstructive surgeon at the hospital.
"Understanding this data, we as surgeons have a duty to responsibly prescribe opioids and limit the potential for abuse, particularly for cosmetic or elective surgeries," Lee said.
As a result of their findings, the study authors have reduced by at least half the number of opioid tablets they prescribe.
The study was published online Sept. 6 in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.
The United States is facing an opioid epidemic, the study authors noted in the news release, with less than 5 percent of the world's population using two-thirds of the world's opioid painkiller supply.
Opioid-related deaths in the United States have increased 200 percent since 2000. And studies have found that nearly 60 percent of the nation's households have leftover prescription opioids.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on prescription opioids.
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