”To fight America’s opioid epidemic, lawmakers and regulators have clamped down hard on doctors’ prescribing practices.
But one avenue for obtaining prescription opioids appears to have been overlooked, according to a new study.
Millions of Tablets
Veterinarians are prescribing large quantities of opioids to pets, raising concern that some people might be using Fido or Snuggles to feed their addiction.
Opioid prescriptions from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine rose 41% between 2007 and 2017, even though the annual number of visits increased by just 13%, researchers found.
Penn Vet handed out 105 million tramadol tablets, 97 500 hydrocodone (Hycodan) tablets, and nearly 39 000 codeine tablets during the study period, results show.
Not Just For Pets
It’s very likely at least some of these drugs wound up being used by humans, said Emily Feinstein, executive vice president of the Center on Addiction.
The US opioid crisis led to roughly 50 000 overdose deaths in 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Americans now are more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car or motorcycle crash, a fall, drowning or choking on food, a report issued Tuesday by the National Safety Council concluded.
Read more at Health 24
With the opioid epidemic raging across America, many scientists are in search of an alternative painkilling drug — one that could be used in place of opioids, without the deadly side effects.
Now, a team of researchers in the U.S. and Japan say they’ve developed a promising new synthetic drug that could be as effective as opioids in relieving pain but without posing the risk of addiction. In a new study, the drug, called AT-121, successfully relieved pain in rhesus monkeys without resulting in harmful side effects or causing the monkeys to become addicted. Still, more research is needed before the drug could be evaluated in humans.
Although the number of opioids prescribed in the U.S. has decreased since its peak in 2010, the levels remain high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that there were more than 42,000 deaths from opioid overdoses in 2016, up from 33,000 deaths in 2015, Live Science previously reported.
The fact that the drug was studied in a primate model, rather than in a mouse model as is done in many similar studies, means that the effects of the drug are likely much closer to what scientists would expect to see in humans, Roth said. And the monkeys didn’t experience any changes in respiratory health while taking AT-121, which suggests that an overdose would be unlikely to cause the harmful or fatal respiratory effects associated with an opioid overdose. “That would be a significant advance if that [result] is transferable to humans,” Roth added.
The scientists plan to continue their research by carrying out the safety and toxicology studies that are required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before proceeding with human clinical trials. “We want to move as fast as possible because our results are exciting,” Zaveri told Live Science. The scientists are also researching other compounds that have a similar profile as AT-121, she added.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a national campaign to help fight the prescription opioid crisis in this country.
The campaign will use online advertising, billboards, newspapers and radio/TV ads to increase awareness about the risks of opioids.
“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is committed to using evidence-based methods to communicate targeted messages about the opioid crisis and prevent addiction and misuse in every way we can,” said HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D.
He added, “Prevention is a key piece of the five-point strategy HHS unveiled under the Trump Administration for combating this crisis, which has left no corner of America untouched.”