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Addictive Opioids Common for People on Dialysis

HealthDay News
by -- Robert Preidt
Updated: Sep 21st 2017

new article illustration

THURSDAY, Sept. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Kidney dialysis patients in the United States have high rates of prescriptions for opioid painkillers and many also receive high doses of the potentially addictive drugs, a new study finds.

Pain is common in dialysis patients, the study authors explained in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.

But these patients can't take certain drugs because their failing kidneys can't process them. This makes pain control difficult.

For the new study, researchers reviewed Medicare data from 2006 through 2010. The investigators found that nearly two-thirds of dialysis patients received at least one opioid prescription every year. More than 20 percent received repeated prescriptions.

In addition, more than 25 percent of patients given opioid prescriptions received higher-than-recommended doses.

The use of opioids was associated with increased risks of early death, discontinuing dialysis and hospitalization, the findings showed. However, the association seen in the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

"Excessive opioid use and its adverse outcomes in the end-stage renal [kidney] disease population is of great concern to U.S. patients, practitioners and policy makers," study author Dr. Paul Kimmel, of the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, said in the news release.

"This study shows that this high-risk dialysis population is also subject to the risks of long-term opioid use. Exploring other options to treat pain, such as medications and behavioral therapy, could help reduce opioid prescriptions in this population. Such changes are urgently needed to decrease patient morbidity and mortality," Kimmel concluded.

The study was published online Sept. 21 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more on dialysis.