VA study finds opioids are no better than alternatives for chronic pain

Dr. Erin Krebs
Dr. Erin Krebs, Women's Health Medical Director for the Minneapolis VA, Wednesday, Mar. 11, 2015 at the VA Medical Center.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

A new study from the VA out of Minneapolis found that opioids were not as effective as nonopioids for patients who suffered from back pain or arthritis in their knees and hips.

There was "no advantage [to prescribing opioids] that outweighed all that risk of accidental death or addiction," said Dr. Erin Krebs. She is the lead author on the study. She is also the Women's Health Medical Director for the Minneapolis VA Health Care System.

Krebs spoke with host Mike Mulcahy about this one of a kind study. She said the results show that doctors need to work with their patients to find solutions other than opioids, which she thinks are prescribed too often.

The 240 volunteers for the study had to suffer from chronic pain for more than six months. Many of them had pain for much longer. They checked in with a clinical pharmacist regularly, monthly for most, and adjusted their dosage. These patients suffered from moderate to severe pain.

Krebs said that with nonopioids, "we were able to improve people's pain and their functioning, in terms of their pain effect on life activities."

Use the audio player above to listen to the interview.

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