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. These patients can’t take certain drugs because their failing kidneys can’t process them.
This makes pain control difficult. 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 association seen in the study does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
“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.