Category: Systematic review

Systematic reviews are the cream of the research crop. Those who understand their value thrive at an opportunity to learn more about them.

America could relax opioid treatment access policies

Canada and the United States (U.S.) face an opioid use disorder and opioid overdose epidemic.

The most effective OUD treatment is opioid agonist therapy (OAT). It means buprenorphine (with and without naloxone) and methadone. Although federal approval for OAT occurred decades ago, in both countries, access to and use of OAT is low. Restrictive policies and complex regulations contribute to limited treatment access.


We did a non-systematic literature scan and reviewed all available policy documents. We studied and compared treatment policies and practice at the federal level in Canada vs. United States. And also at the local level in British Columbia (B.C.) vs. Oregon.

There are differences and similarities between federal and local OAT policies. This applies to access to treatment. In Canada, treatment policy control has shifted from federal to provincial authorities. But in the U.S., federal authorities maintain primary control of treatment regulations. Local OAT health insurance coverage policies differed between B.C. and Oregon. While B.C. had 5 treatment options, Oregon had only 2 OAT options with some limitations.

Relaxation of special federal regulatory policies

The Canadian and U.S. federal OAT policies differ. So do the local OAT access and coverage policies in B.C. and Oregon. And it’s also because of the relaxation of special federal OAT regulatory controls in Canada. Our paper also highlights the complicating contributions and likely policy solutions. For example, the prescription regime and drug control regime within the drug policy sub-domain. Or, the constitutional rights within the broader policy domain.

U.S. policy makers and health officials could consider adopting Canada’s regulatory policy approach to expand treatment access.

Better access mitigates the harms of the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic.

Reference: Priest, K. C., Gorfinkel, L., Klimas, J., Jones, A. A., Fairbairn, N., & McCarty, D. (2019). Comparing Canadian and United States opioid agonist therapy policies. Int J Drug Policy. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.01.020

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Why most opioid risk tools fail?

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How many of you had a flu this winter? Anyone took antibiotics for that? But some people can’t take them because they are allergic.  Now, imagine someone suffering from pain, being prescribed opioids and having a negative reaction to them. What if this reaction was addiction to opioids? What if we could measure the risk for addiction the same way we can measure allergy to antibiotics? This article describes why opioid addiction is not an allergy to opioids and that we should not think about it that way, nor try to measure it using opioid risk tools.

The Problem

We wanted to find out whether we can tell which adult will go into opioid addiction when prescribed opioids for pain. Why? Prescription opioid addiction can have devastating consequences but it is not clear how to identify patients with pain among whom prescription opioids can be safely prescribed.

The Study

The Journal of the American Medical Association – JAMA Network Open – commissioned us to do a very special kind of review that is called Diagnostic Accuracy Review. For this study, we chose only the best studies. To illustrate diagnostic performance, data from higher quality studies were extracted and used to calculate likelihood ratios (LR). What are likelihood ratios? Likelihood Ratios bigger than 1 increase the probability of a disease. Likelihood ratio of 1 equals roughly zero increase. Likelihood of 2 equals just about 15% increase.

Opioid Risk Tools

The opioid risk screening tools that are in widespread use are based on low quality studies and are not helpful in identifying patients at higher risk. Among them, the pain medication questionnaire had likelihood ratio of 2.6 (slight increase in likelihood, about 15%). Some risk factors were found in a single high quality study:

A history of opioid or non-opioid use disorder, a mental health diagnosis and concomitant prescription of certain psychiatric medications may increase the risk of prescription opioid addiction.

However, only the absence of a mood disorder appeared useful for identifying lower risk patients (and assessment tools incorporating combinations of patient characteristics and risk factors were not useful).

Take home?

There are few valid ways to identify patients who can be safely prescribed opioid analgesics. Given the lack of good tools and the mounting evidence that opioids are not effective for chronic pain, such as the recent JAMA trial called Space, prescribers should be aware of tools’ limitations when prescribing opioids for pain. Opioid addiction is not an allergic reaction. Don’t try to measure risk for it and whether it’s safe to prescribe. De-implement opioid risk tools!

 

Reference: Klimas, J., Gorfinkel, L., Fairbairn, N., Amato, L., Ahamad, K., Nolan, S., Simel, D., Wood, E. (2019) Strategies to identify patient risks of prescription opioid addiction when initiating opioids for pain: A Systematic review. JAMA Network Open. 2(5):e193365. Doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.3365

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Diagnosing opioid addiction in people with chronic pain

As good as methadone if not better

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Looking at an old drug repurposed to treat opioid addiction, a new study found long-acting formulation of morphine (SROM) promising for curbing the opioid epidemic.

Many people who overdose on fentanyl have untreated opioid addiction. Left untreated, opioid addiction can have devastating consequences. One of the reasons for the low treatment rates is that current medications have limited ability to retain people in treatment. The Canadian National Guideline for the Clinical Management of Opioid Use Disorder recommends treatment with slow-release oral morphine, also known as SROM—prescribed as a third line of therapy. In this study, we wanted to compare Kadian® and Methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder.

QUICK FACT: Slow release oral morphine (SROM) is given once daily and has been proposed for people who do not tolerate or respond to methadone.

We looked at the scientific literature up until the May of 2018. Then, we wanted to see if SROM (brand name Kadian®) works as well as methadone in the treatment of opioid use disorder. In the study, we included people of any gender, age or ethnicity.

What did the study find?

We found four unique clinical trials that met inclusion criteria (n = 471), and compared Kadian® with methadone. Meta-analysis of existing clinical trials suggests SROM (slow release oral morphine) may be as effective in retaining patients in treatment and reducing heroin use.

This is the first meta-analysis of slow release oral morphine (Kadian®). We included new studies that increase the validity of the study. We included previously unpublished data obtained from primary trials. A pooling of data for craving and adverse events was not possible due to inconsistent reporting of outcome measures across trials

SROM seems as good as methadone for the treatment of opioid use disorder but retains people in treatment longer.

Why is SROM important?

While methadone is effective for many patients, these findings suggest SROM may provide benefits in addressing some of the limitations of methadone. We need to expand uptake and retention of people on opioid use disorder treatments. These data should compel public health agencies and decision makers to find therapeutic tools for people who have opioid addiction.

We are running out of options for helping people overcome opioid addiction and abandon contaminated fentanyl. But revisiting this medication, known from cancer treatment, can have a dramatic impact on addiction treatment success because it is not only equally effective as the current treatment options but also better tolerated by patients. Expanding treatment options responds to patients’ needs by offering drugs with fewer side effects.

Kadian® slow-release oral morphine is available in 10mg, 20mg, 50mg, and 100mg capsules, which may be combined as necessary.

Reference: Klimas, J., Gorfinkel, L., Giacomuzzi, S., Ruckes, C., Socias, E.M., Fairbairn, N., Wood, E. (2019) Slow Release Oral Morphine versus Methadone for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. BMJ Open (In Press) 0:e025799. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-025799

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