The deadliest drug problem in America is the abuse of prescription pain medication. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is alarming. The study shows prescription drugs have a higher overdose rate than heroin and cocaine combined.
Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Stafford Broumand from New York City says the most prescribed medication in America is hydrocodone, an extremely addictive pain killer. “If we can minimize narcotics or eliminate them, it’s better for our patients, it’s better for their recovery, and it’s safer,” says Broumand.
Dr. William P. Adams Jr., a plastic surgeon in Dallas, says he limits a patient’s narcotics to no more than a ten day supply because patients are getting hooked. “The patient can always come back to us if they’re having a problem, but the reality is if someone needs more pain medicine than that, there may be something else going on.”
The Plastic Surgery Channel asked surgeons, what can be done to help curb this epidemic? One solution is a new formulation of an old drug that keeps patients comfortable in the first few, critical days after surgery. The new drug is called EXPAREL.
Patients aren’t Feeling the Pain
“This drug is injectable. We use it at the time of surgery in the areas we’ve operated and it does wonders to control pain in the first 72 hours after surgery,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, a plastic surgeon from Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I never had to ask for anything for pain and I never got to the point where it was like, when are they going to bring something else; it was just easy,” says Nancy, a recent abdominoplasty patient. “I’ve had other surgeries where I was counting down the time when I could take more pain medication and it wasn’t that way with this.”
“Now, we don’t have to rely on high doses of narcotics that lead to complications,” says Dr. Smith. He says approximately 50% of patients who take pain pills have some adverse effect with them. Over the past year, Smith and his fellow colleagues at their Charlotte practice have performed hundreds of abdominoplasties using EXPAREL. He says of those patients, fifty were involved in a study looking at pain management after surgery. “We found that the average number of pain pills the day after surgery that patients took was four. In general, the amount of pain pills was 60% lower than the average patient before this medication.”
EXPAREL Blocks Pain Before it Starts
Dr. Baxter, a plastic surgeon in Seattle, Washington has seen similar results. “EXPAREL has worked really well for us, we just completed a clinical trial looking at pain specifically for abdominoplasty patients and found that their pain scores were very low, and they needed fewer narcotics. The patient’s whole recovery process is much better if you can block the pain before you experience it, rather than try to dull it with narcotics.”
Since EXPAREL has worked so well for the abdominoplasty procedure, which is normally a rather painful surgery, plastic surgeons are now starting to use the drug in other procedures such as face lifts, breast reconstructions and breast augmentations.
To help turn the prescription drug problem around, Dr. Adams says doctors need to be more cautious. “The bottom line is these narcotic medications are not a long term solution. We know that certain types of painkillers really do have a high addiction potential. In light of all the new things that are coming out that are non-narcotic and actually work better, there are better solutions out there for patients.”