Patterns of Analgesic Prescriptions for Low Back PainLow back pain (LBP) can be very disabling. Prescription drugs are often used for pain relief in cases of acute LBP. These include opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and COX-2 inhibitors. In this study the patterns of analgesic use for LBP is described.
Doctors at the University of Pittsburgh Health System conducted this study. This is a large system with more than 5,000 physicians and 255,958 members. In one year (2001) about half the patients receiving back care were given a prescription drug. Opioids were used almost 40 percent of the time.
Opioids are strong pain relievers related to opium. Natural forms include codeine and morphine. COX-2 inhibitors (a special NSAID that's easier on the stomach) were only used for six percent of the back pain patients. The rest of the patients got a standard NSAID. Patients who were given an opioid also had other services for their LBP.
The authors aren't sure if the use of opioids by this many patients was appropriate. They do suggest this rate of usage is higher than reported in the past. The results point out the need for this hospital system to develop patient education programs.
Molly T. Vogt, PhD, et al. Analgesic Usage for Low Back Pain: Impact on Health Care Costs and Service Use. In Spine. May 1, 2005. Vol. 30. No. 9. Pp. 1075-1081.
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