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One in five patients who receive 10-day painkiller prescription become long-term users, study finds

A new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that one in five patients who are prescribed a 10-day supply of opioid painkillers will use the drugs for a year or longer. This long-term use places opioid users at an increased risk of addiction or other complications caused by prescription opioids.

The CDC study, conducted by researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Science, was based on an analysis of prescription records for about 1.3 million patients. The patients in the study were 18 years of age or older, cancer free, had no known history of opioid abuse, and received at least one opioid prescription between June 2006 and September 2013.

Researchers found that a patient’s risk of long-term opioid use increased with respect to the size of the initial prescription they received from their doctor. Patients who receive a one-day supply of painkillers had about a 6% chance of using the drugs for a year or more. With a five-day supply, the odds of long-term opioid use rose to 10%. Patients who received a 10-day supply had a 20% risk of using the drugs for a year or longer. When patients received a 20-day initial supply of opioid medication, their risk of long-term use climbed to 45%.

Researchers identified several additional factors that could create additional risks for long-term opioid painkiller use. Patients who were prescribed long-acting opioids, those who were prescribed a cumulative dose greater than 700 mg of morphine, and patients who received multiple prescriptions were more likely to become long-term users. About one in seven patients who were prescribed multiple opioid drugs or a prescription refill used the medications for one year or longer.

In 2016, several federal agencies took action to help combat the U.S. opioid epidemic. The Drug Enforcement Agency announced that it would lower its 2017 quota for the production of opioid painkillers, while the CDC released new guidelines for the prescription of opioid painkillers. The agency recommended an initial opioid dose of three days for patients with acute pain. The CDC also advised doctors to avoid prescribing opioids to patients with chronic pain, except for cancer patients or patients with a terminal illness.

Over the last two decades, increases in the frequency of opioid painkiller prescriptions for drugs such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, hydromorphone, and methadone have led to an epidemic of opioid overdoses and addiction cases. Data from the CDC on deaths linked to the opioid epidemic has found that about 91 Americans die of an opioid overdose every day.

Lawsuits Filed on Behalf of Opioid Overdose Victims

For years, the pharmaceutical industry has aggressively promoted opioid drugs to patients and physicians, helping to fuel the U.S. opioid crisis. Physicians who prescribe these medications in excessive amounts have also contributed to the growing epidemic of opioid overdoses.

If you or a loved one were the victim of an overdose caused by opioid painkillers, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against company that manufactured the drug, or the doctor or hospital who prescribed your medication. The first step in taking legal action is to talk with an attorney who has the knowledge and experience to advise you of your legal rights and guide you through the first steps in filing a case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous individuals who have suffered overdoses or other complications from caused by prescription opioids. Our law firm has filed more lawsuits involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the U.S. combined. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has also represented victims and families who were affected by complications from other opioid drugs, including Vicodin and hydrocodone, OxyContin and oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and other medications.

If you or a loved one has suffered an overdose caused by opioid painkillers, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson to learn whether you may be eligible to file a case. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few short questions to get started.

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