January 16, 2024

Anti-inflammatory drug reduces opioid requests after surgery

Editor's Note:

An FDA-approved anti-inflammatory drug used to treat poisoning and liver damage could help reduce patient requests for opioids after surgery, according to findings published October 25 in the Future Medicine journal Pain Management.

The study involved 50 patients who were given either a set dose of the anti-inflammatory N-acetylcysteine (NAC) or a placebo after back surgery. Patients that were given NAC received 16–22% less opioids in the first 2 days after surgery compared with those that were given placebo. The patients who received NAC also took longer to request pain medications after surgery and their reported pain scores were lower the first 2 days after surgery compared to those in the placebo group.

Although opioids are effective for treating pain, their strong addictive potential leads physicians to seek ways to minimize their use, researchers note. They were encouraged that the beneficial effect of NAC lasted longer than the drug was expected to remain in the body. They will be expanding their research to other procedures, and they are currently enrolling minimally invasive hysterectomy patients in a larger trial. 

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