7 Recent Studies & Research Findings on Painkillers

Here are seven recent research findings on painkillers.

1. Slightly Too Much Paracetamol Can Cause Overdose. Researchers found that taking more paracetamol than recommended, even in small amounts, can result in overdose over time. They looked at medical records of 663 patients who had been referred with paracetamol-induced liver injury and found the 161 patients who had taken a staggered overdose were more likely to develop liver and brain problems, need kidney dialysis or help with their breathing and die of their complications.

2. Paracetamol Works by Activating Special Protein. Researchers at King's College London have discovered that a protein called TRPA1, found on the surface of nerve cells, is the molecule needed for common analgesic paracetamol to relieve pain. Researchers used a 'hot plate' test in mice to determine how long it takes for a mouse to remove its paw from a hot surface. When given paracetamol, mice took longer to remove their paws. Researchers performed the test when the TRPA1 protein was not present, and paracetamol lost its analgesic effect.

3. Opioids Not Effective Treatment for Sciatica. An assessment of 270 studies by the National Health Service in the United Kingdom found opioids are not effective for treating sciatica. The review found surgery, epidural steroid injections and non-opioid drugs, including NSAIDs, muscle relaxants and amitriptyline, appeared to be best treatments.

4. Analgesics Decrease Agitation in Patients with Dementia. A new study found analgesic use decreases agitation in patients with dementia. Individual nursing homes were assigned analgesic use or placebo. Patients were given acetaminophen (68 percent), buprenorphine via transdermal patch (23 percent), pregabalin (7 percent) and morphine (2 percent). Researchers found agitation was reduced on average by 17 percent.

5. Naltrexone Use Prevents Relapse of Opioid Dependency. A study found using a once-monthly extended-release naltrexone intramuscular injection is an effective way to prevent opioid dependency relapse after detoxification. The yearlong study was an extension of the original study that resulted in the drug's approval in Oct. 2010. Researchers looked at 67 previously treated patients and 47 patients who switched from placebo therapy. At the end of the trial, slightly more than half the patients were completely abstinent from opioid use.

6. Use of Opioids Prior to Knee Replacement Tied to Complications. A new study found patients who use opioids prior to knee replacement experience more complications. Researchers found Knee Society scores for patients who used opioids were significantly lower than in the non-opioid group. The mean score was 79 points in the opioid group and 92 points in the non-opioid group. Five patients in the opioid group underwent arthroscopic evaluations and eight revisions for stiffness and/or pain compared to none in the non-opioid group. Ten opioid group patients were referred to outpatient pain management compared to one in the non-opioid group.

7. Nano-formulated NSAIDs Provide Relief at Lower Doses. A study found nano-formulation, which reduces particle size and enhances drug dissolution, of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can provide relief at lower doses and a lower cost. Researchers found lower doses of naproxen were as effective at reducing pain as standard traditional doses. The time to pain relief was also reduced at just over one hour for the nano-formulation of naproxen 400 mg, more than three hours for placebo and an hour and a half for the standard naproxen 500 mg dose.

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