A new study by a doctor with Albany Medical Center could have a wide-ranging impact on the opioid crisis, particularly by stopping addictions before they start.
The study by Dr. Andrew Chang and his colleagues compared three opioid-based pain treatments with a non-opioid treatment in patients with extremity pain.
The study found that, two hours after treatment, the non-opioid treatment was not statistically different from those treated with opioids.
The study was published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Chang, who joined Albany Medical Center last year, conducted the double-blind study in the emergency department of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
He cautioned in an interview Tuesday that more study is needed to determine longer-term outcomes of the treatments, but he said the study could lead to fewer doctors prescribing opioids and patients understanding they don't need them.
"If we can then not send patients home on an opioid and decrease the number of people exposed to opioids, it may also help reduce the number of people who become addicted to opioids," Chang said Tuesday.
He said he intends to continue the study at Albany Medical Center and follow patients who agree to take part beyond their emergency stays, possibly for three to seven days.
The study looked at three opioids — oxycodone, hydrocodone and codeine — and compared them to higher-than-over-the-counter doses of a combination of ibuprofen and acetaminophen, both of which are not opioids.
After two hours, pain scores that initially hovered at 8.7 out of 10 were reduced by 4.4, 3.5 and 3.9 points, for those who were given opioids. The non-opioid treatment reduced the pain scores by 4.3, according to the study. The study included a double-blind, randomized trial with 416 patients who went to the emergency room for extremity pain, according to the journal article.
The article also highlights the opioid epidemic, noting a 200 percent increase in opioid-related overdose deaths nationwide from 2000 to 2014, and that long-term opioid use often begins with the treatment of pain.
By showing doctors that non-opioids work, Chang said, the result could be less pressure on doctors to send patients home with opioids.
"I'm hoping this serves as a starting point to a conversation about using non-opioids instead of opioids," Chang said.