Recent research highlights dangers of pharmaceutical pain relief

As we reported in our previous article ‘Is current pain medication targeting just the initial pain?‘(1), the leader of the research team highlighted the importance of finding alternatives to pharmaceutical pain management as the opioid crisis in the US continues.

A recent report in the journal JAMA Network Open(2) looked at the rate of opioid prescription after surgery in the US and compared it with Sweden, noting that the rate was seven times higher in the US compared to Sweden.

Based on a review of 220,000 cases between 2013 and 2016, the authors found that around three quarters of patients coming out of surgery in the US received prescriptions for opioid pain medication, whereas only just over one in ten patients in Sweden received one. The authors also found that US and Canadian patients got higher doses than their counterparts in Sweden.

In addition patients in the US were more likely than their counterparts in Sweden and Canada to receive more powerful (and potentially addictive) pain killers like hydrocodone and oxycodone, with less powerful options (eg codeine and tramadol) only being prescribed 7% of the time in the US as against 45% in Sweden and 58% in Canada.

Closer to home here in Australia, more recent research on paracetamol poisoning(3) published in the Medical Journal of Australia highlights the toll of paracetamol overdose here, with the annual number of cases increasing by 44% between 2007/2008 and 2016/2017 and 200 people dying from paracetamol overdose during the ten year period. In developed countries this pain medication is the main cause of liver failure.

Although around 3 in 4 cases were identified as intentional overdoses, that still left 1 in 4 as accidental. The authors of the research recommended a number of changes, including potentially banning the modified release version of paracetamol (which is already the case in Europe) and reducing packet sizes.

Finally two other recent reports have shown more side effects for popular pain relief medication – in particular tramadol (described above as one of the less potent opioids) linked to higher risk of hypoglycaemia and low blood sugar(4) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) linked to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease for people with osteoarthritis(5).

In what appears to be a perfect storm of problems associated with many different types of pharmaceutical approaches to pain relief, there has never been a better time to encourage governments and health institutions, and of course patients, to re-evaluate alternative approaches.


In the words of the co-inventor of Q Magnets, physiotherapist Dianne Hermans…

“Tools to self-manage chronic pain and recover faster from injury are vitally important to remain free of drug dependence and away from hospitals. After 20 years as a treating physiotherapist, the best self-management treatment I ever used were quadrapolar magnets. When we could no longer source them from our supplier, we invented a new and improved model.”



(2) US opioid prescription rate is 7 times that of Sweden

(3) Paracetamol poisoning‐related hospital admissions and deaths in Australia, 2004–2017

(4) Popular pain medication associated with greater risk of hypoglycemia

(5) Pain medications linked to higher cardiovascular risks in patients with osteoarthritis

More Coverage

Pain-killer poisoning on the rise: Experts want access to paracetamol restricted





No Comments

Leave a Comment

Only registerd members can post a comment , Login / Register


ERROR: 1 - [InvalidConfig]Invalid Configuration: for help setting up your API, please contact Support ( ext. 2)