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15-03-2018 | Head and neck cancers | News

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High odds of opioid prescriptions for head and neck cancer

medwireNews: The likelihood of being prescribed opioids is greater for patients with head and neck cancer (HNCA) than for those with lung or colon cancer, findings indicate.

“Data suggest that patients with HNCA have a higher prevalence of pain than patients with other cancer types, which may explain a necessity for more intensive pain management regimens,” lead author Rosh Sethi (Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, USA) and colleagues explain in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

But they add that “opiate use is not without risk, and achieving adequate pain management while minimizing the risk of substance overuse and misuse is critical.”

Drawing on the US Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys for 2011, 2013, and 2015, the authors found that HNCA patients were a significant 67% more likely to be given an opiate relative to lung or colon cancer patients. And they received more oxycodone tablets per prescription, at a mean of 87.1 versus 71.0 tablets for the comparator group.

However, the average duration of supply was similar, at a corresponding 15.7 and 15.5 days.

Sethi et al conclude: “It is imperative that [HNCA] physicians are mindful of opioid prescription trends for patients with HNCA, especially in the context of the current opioid epidemic.”

By Shreeya Nanda

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare. © 2018 Springer Healthcare part of the Springer Nature group

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