July 30 (UPI) -- Ninety percent or more of people undergoing total knee or hip replacement in 2017 received a prescription for opioid pain relievers within 60 days of surgery -- up from 82% three years earlier -- a study published Thursday by JAMA Network Open found.
This increase occurred despite efforts by government agencies and others to discourage opioid use because of the risk for addiction and other side effects, according to the researchers.
"The dramatic increase in prescription opioids after joint replacement surgery persisted in the face of myriad government, health payer and health system policies and guidelines aimed at reducing opioid over-prescribing," study co-author Rahul K. Shah told UPI.
Shah is a medical student at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
The opioid epidemic -- increased rates of drug addiction and overdose-related deaths -- in the United States is linked, at least in part, to over-prescribing of these drugs by healthcare providers, research shows.
For this study, Shah and his colleagues reviewed data on nearly 240,000 patients nationwide who underwent total knee or total hip replacement between 2014 and 2017.
Just over 150,000 of the patients had total knee replacement, while just over 86,000 had total hip replacement surgery, according to the researchers.
The average age of patients included in the analysis was roughly 65. Nearly 60% were female and more than 87% were White, the researchers said.
Patients' mean pain scores -- a commonly used measure in the assessment of post-operative pain -- remained "similar" for both procedures over the study period, according to the researchers.
By 2017, the percentage of those undergoing total knee and total hip replacement who received opioid prescriptions increased to 92% and 90%, respectively, they said.
"Our findings suggest a need for more effective strategies -- based on evidence informed guidelines -- to improve safe opioid prescribing practices especially after joint replacement," Shah said.