Over-the-Counter Pain Pills Work as Well as Opioids for Emergency Department Patients

A mixture of two non-addictive, over-the-counter drugs relieves pain just as well than a trio of opioid pain medications for patients who showed up in the emergency department, according to a study in JAMA. “For patients presenting to the ED with acute extremity pain, there were no statistically significant or clinically important differences in pain reduction at two hours among single-dose treatment with ibuprofen and acetaminophen or with three different opioid and acetaminophen combination analgesics,” the study states.

Opioid addiction often starts as pain treatment for an injury or operation. But patients sometimes become hooked and when providers realize there’s a problem and cut off the supply, patients will switch to much cheaper street heroin. More than 2 million Americans are addicted to opioid painkillers or heroin, and opioids are prescribed for about one out of five ED patients.

Researchers looked at 416 patients admitted with moderate to severe acute extremity pain at two urban EDs in the Bronx, N.Y. Data were gathered from July 2015 to August 2016. The randomized clinical study did not track patient medication usage after they left the hospital.

Source: JAMA