Opioid stewardship can reduce inappropriate prescribing of opioids at hospital discharge

Stephan A Schug
Med J Aust 2020; 213 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50818
Published online: 2 November 2020

The associated risks, particularly that of long term use, are underestimated, and appropriate measures are needed

Before 1990, opioids were primarily used to treat severe acute and cancer pain. In the subsequent 30 years, opioids have been increasingly used for treating chronic non‐malignant pain; prescribing has increased exponentially in the developed world, particularly in the United States, but also in Canada and Australia.1 Regrettably, this has not only resulted in poor outcomes for patients living with chronic pain; the analgesic efficacy of opioids for this indication are limited, and they do not improve, and often reduce, function and quality of life.2 Further, diversion of prescribed opioids and their misuse have risen in parallel with increased prescribing, leading to higher numbers of overdoses deaths. In Australia, about 1100 people died following opioid overdoses during 2018, and 75% of cases involved prescription opioids (similar to the number of deaths from car accidents in that year).3

  • Stephan A Schug

  • University of Western Australia, Perth, WA


Competing interests:

The Anaesthesiology Unit of the University of Western Australia and Stephan Schug personally (since his retirement in October 2019) have received research and travel funding and speaking and consulting honoraria from Grünenthal, Indivior, Mundipharma, Pfizer, iX Biopharma, Seqirus, Xgene, Biogen, Luye Pharma and Foundry during the past 36 months.


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