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Why Are Painkillers Dangerous For Pregnant Women?

A nurse recently asked a very important question that bears repeating: What effect does long-term use of pain pills have on pregnant women? She was concerned because of the increase in number of pregnant women who are taking pain pills on a long term basis based on previous surgeries, accidents or a history of chronic pain.

The most common “pain pills” prescribed are opiates which effectively eliminate or reduce pain but have a great tendency to be abused. Opioids are natural and synthetic type drugs that have the characteristics of morphine. It can only be obtained with a prescription and unfortunately physicians contribute to the problem of dependency and abuse through their lack of scrutiny regarding patient requests. My present home state of Florida has the unsavory distinction of being known as the country’s largest pill mill and it was reported that 80 percent of opiates were not dispensed by pharmacists but by physicians who dispense them from their offices. Consequently, the Florida legislators now prohibit physicians from dispensing opiates in their offices with rare exceptions.

Why are opiates or pain killers dangerous for pregnant women? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Prescription Opiate Abuse On The Rise

Prescription opiates rose to one-third of all treatment admissions in 2009, from 8% in 1999, reflecting the rising trends in prescription opiate abuse. There were nearly 2 million substance abuse treatment admissions in 2009 among people ages 12 and older were reported to the Treatment Episode Data Set, a reporting system involving treatment facilities from across the country.

Five substance groups accounted for 96% of admissions: alcohol (42%), opiates (21%), marijuana (18%), cocaine (9%), and methamphetamine/amphetamines (6%), reported the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The data came from 49 states and Puerto Rico. Georgia and the District of Columbia did not report admissions for 2009. One person can be reported as multiple admissions in a year.

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*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

FDA Restricts Acetaminophen In Popular Pain Medications

This is a guest post from Dr. Mary Lynn McPherson.

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FDA Restricts Acetaminophen In Popular Pain Medications

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made an announcement yesterday that affects one of the most common pain medications on the market, and as a consequence may affect countless numbers of the 75 million Americans who experience chronic pain (for perspective, that’s more than the number of people suffering from cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined.) The FDA has asked manufacturers of popular prescription pain medications like Vicodin or Percocet to limit the amount of acetaminophen (also known as Tylenol, or APAP) used in these drugs to no more than 325 milligrams per tablet — the equivalent of one regular-strength Tylenol tablet.

The move came because research has shown that acetaminophen can cause liver damage when taken in higher than recommended doses. The problem is that many over-the-counter medications ALSO contain acetaminophen, and patients may take one or more of these common products (like Tylenol) to reduce their fever or get rid of a headache along with their prescription pain relievers.

Before you know it, you could be taking more than the maximum daily dose of acetaminophen which is 4,000 milligrams. I go out of my way to advise people I work with of this warning, but not everyone takes time to talk to the pharmacist and not all pharmacists make themselves readily available. That is why it is critically important that you talk to your pharmacist to make sure that you are not taking more than this amount. The pharmacist is the last stop between you and medication misuse — you could be taking a medication that contains acetaminophen and not even know it. Read more »

Painkiller Safety

Perhaps as many as one in every five American adults will get a prescription for a painkiller this year, and many more will buy over-the-counter medicines without a prescription. These drugs can do wonders — getting rid of pain can seem like a miracle — but sometimes there’s a high price to be paid.

Remember the heavily marketed COX-2 inhibitors? Rofecoxib, sold as Vioxx, and valdecoxib, sold as Bextra, were taken off the market in 2004 and 2005, respectively, after studies linked them to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin, ibuprofen (sold as Advil and Motrin), and naproxen (sold as Aleve) seem like safe bets. But taken over long periods, they have potentially dangerous gastrointestinal side effects, including ulcers and bleeding. Kidney and liver damage are possible, too. More recently, some of the NSAIDs have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Low doses of aspirin (usually defined as 81 mg) is an exception and is often prescribed to lower the risk of heart and stroke.

Even acetaminophen, which is often viewed as the safest pain drug and a low-risk alternative to the NSAIDs because it doesn’t have their gastrointestinal side effects, comes with a caution about high doses possibly causing liver failure. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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