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

Northwest mines lengthen crew rotations in response to COVID-19

Northern Health confident precautions sufficient enough to keep work camps open

Coastal GasLink gives $100K to United Way efforts in Northern B.C.

Organization’s COVID-19 Relief Fund benefits seniors in isolation, among others

Fisheries and Oceans Canada lifts at-sea observer requirements due to COVID-19

Fisheries Management Order went into effect April 2 and will remain for 45 days

B.C. firefighters only responding to most life-threatening calls during COVID-19 pandemic

The directive comes after province spoke with paramedics, fire services, according to top doctor

Northern Health says it’s ready for possibility of COVID-19 surge

Health authority confident with inventory of ventilators

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read