Seven times more opioid prescriptions in Canada and U.S. than Sweden: study

Amount of opioid dispensed was significantly higher in U.S. compared with Canada and Sweden

Prescription pills containing oxycodone. (The Canadian Press)

Patients in Canada and the United States filled opioid prescriptions after minor surgery at a rate that was seven times higher than those in Sweden, reveals a new study that suggests the addictive pain drugs could be used more judiciously in North America.

Researchers examined prescriptions filled by individuals in the first week after undergoing one of four low-risk operations in the three countries. Just 11 per cent of patients in Sweden filled an opioid prescription, compared with 79 per cent in Canada and 76 per cent in the U.S.

Among those who filled an opioid prescription, the amount of opioid dispensed was significantly higher in the U.S. compared with Canada and Sweden, adds the study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open.

“I think there’s a lot of data, including this study, that suggests that patients are getting more opioids than they need for even just minor surgical procedures,” said Dr. Karim Ladha, a clinician-scientist at the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital and co-author of the study, in an interview.

“The concern is really that we’re contributing to a supply of opioids in the community.”

Further, the study raises the question of whether opioids are necessary for pain management after surgery, Ladha said. Researchers didn’t have information about the post-operative pain experiences of patients in this study, but it appears many in Sweden were “getting by” without opioids after the same procedures, he said.

“Do we actually need them? While this study can’t answer this question, it’s driving what we’re going to do in the future, which is a randomized controlled trial to really test this hypothesis,” he said, adding he was in the process of applying for a grant for further research.

The study sample consisted of about 129,000 patients in the U.S., 85,000 in Canada and 9,800 in Sweden, between the ages of 18 and 64 who underwent gallbladder removal, appendix removal, meniscus repair or breast lump removal.

RELATED: Decriminalizing drugs the next steps in fighting B.C.’s opioid crisis, top doctor says

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ktunaxa, supporters celebrate protection of Qat’muk and the Jumbo valley

Speeches, acknowledgements and ceremonies mark an emotional gathering in Cranbrook

Hwy 3 to close for avalanche control on Jan. 19

The road is expected to be closed from noon to 3 p.m.

Jumbo Valley to be protected, ending decades-long dispute over proposed ski resort

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Electricity, natural gas use spiked during cold snap: FortisBC

FortisBC said that natural gas use was 50 per cent higher on Jan. 14, compared to week prior

Celebrate ski season with the Trails Society on Jan. 19

Hot chocolate, roasted marshmallows and a groomed trail await

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Most Read