Prescribing Darvon and other opioids painkillers in high doses increases the likelihood of an accidental fatal overdose, according to a newly-published study. Opioids are commonly prescribed for the treatment of pain. In addition to Darvon, this class of drugs includes Lomotil, Percocet, Vicodin, Demerol, Percodan, Avinza, OxyContin, Kadian, and others.
According to the new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the incidence of death by fatal overdose has become a serious public health issue in the U.S. Between 1999 and 2007, the rate of unintentional overdose death in the United States increased by 124 percent, largely because of increases in prescription opioid overdoses, according to the study’s authors. The study was designed to gain a better understanding of the factors contributing to prescription opioid overdose death in order to address the increase in overdose mortality.
In conducting the study, a team of researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs, Ann Arbor, Michigan, looked at the relationship between opioid prescribing patterns and death risk from overdose among groups of patients with cancer, acute pain, substance abuse disorders, and chronic pain. The study included information on all unintended deaths from prescription opioid overdose (total 750) and a random sample of 154,684 Veterans Affairs patients who utilized medical services during the 2004-2008 period.
Approximately 0.04% of patients receiving opioid therapy overdosed, according to the study. Higher maximum daily doses were associated with a higher overdose rate. That trend existed in all patient subgroups, such as those with chronic pain, acute pain, cancer, and substance use disorders.
The study authors also discovered that as-needed opioid administration was associated with an increase in risk of overdose among patients with cancer compared with having regularly scheduled opioids. Receiving both as-needed and regularly scheduled doses was not associated with overdose risk after adjustment.
The authors wrote:
“The present findings highlight the importance of implementing strategies for reducing opioid overdose among patients being treated for pain. This study documents a relationship between opioid prescribing and opioid overdose in a large, national, prospective cohort of individuals receiving opioid therapy for a variety of medical conditions. The risk of opioid overdose should continue to be evaluated relative to the need to reduce pain and suffering and be considered along with other risk factors.”