Patients are receiving opioids at a rate that is nearly four times what they actually use following surgery. A study published in JAMA Surgery on November 7, 2018 found that surgical patients, on average, used only 27% of the opioid prescription written for them by a practitioner when discharged after surgery. Overprescribing opioids for acute pain has been shown to be a leading factor in the opioid crisis. The study recommends that healthcare practitioners incorporate patient reports of opioid consumption when creating prescribing guidelines for better prescribing practices.
The findings from this study support one of the new requirements in the bipartisan opioid law signed on October 28, 2018 that directs the FDA to develop new packaging, such as individual “blister packs” for the powerful painkillers, so opioids can be available in a smaller supply for just a few days. The new “blister packs” could change physicians’ prescribing practices by changing the default supply of opioids provided in a prescription, limiting them to a few days. The FDA commissioner has confirmed in a statement that this will be a priority of the agency.