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Opioids Still Needed for Acute Pain Treatment But New Solutions Are Important

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By Staff Reports

(DGIwire) – In spite of widespread calls to address their abuse, opioids are still playing a key role in the treatment of acute pain following hospital procedures and for the management of chronic pain at home. According to a recent report in Kaiser Health News, shortages of opioids have left some hospital patients in acute pain following surgery or trauma—leading the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to allow some drug makers to increase their production. This echoes concerns that were voiced in a recent letter from the American Hospital Association to the DEA complaining of critical shortages of morphine, hydromorphine and fentanyl.

Yet despite opioids’ recognized ability to reduce pain, many are seeking a new paradigm for pain treatment. One clue that the future of pain management is ready to expand beyond the prescribing of opioids was recently spotlighted in Oncology Nursing News. According to a study reported by that publication that was presented at the 2018 Society of Gynecologic Oncology Annual Meeting, a new ultra-restrictive opioid prescription protocol for gynecologic surgery led to an 89 percent reduction in the number of opioid tablets dispensed and a high rate of patient satisfaction.

Under the new protocol, more than 90 percent of patients undergoing minimally invasive procedures were discharged with no opioid medication. Of those who did receive medication, the number of tablets dispensed at discharge decreased by 73 percent for patients undergoing open surgery and by 97 percent for those who had ambulatory or minimally invasive procedures.

“There is no doubt that despite the many risks involved, opioids can still represent an effective tool in addressing acute and chronic pain for many patients,” says Tony Mack, CEO of Virpax Pharmaceuticals. “At the same time, it is crucial that new solutions be investigated that can relieve pain in equally effective ways while reducing the potential dangers of abuse.”

Through Tony’s leadership, Virpax is working toward this goal by studying the use of new transdermal and topical drug delivery systems to advance how patients and physicians are able to manage pain without opioids. For example, the company has licensed a patented aerosol-based system—which it has dubbed a “Patch-in-a-Can®”—that is designed to deliver non-opioids such as NSAIDs for the topical treatment of acute pain in a metered-dose spray.

“The future of pain treatment is likely to rely on innovative approaches that veer away from opioid prescribing and toward the unique delivery of effective medications that have less potential for addiction,” Mack adds. “In the meantime, we need to provide acute pain patients with relief through opioids if necessary.”

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