A New Alternative For an Opioid-Free Painkiller

This post is sponsored by Pacira via SheKnows Media.

I recently had the honor of joining SheKnows media at the BlogHer 18 Health Conference in New York City’s beautiful Tribeca.  I’ve made a conscious effort to tuck away and pull from the powerful words spoken by the organizers of The Women’s March, Chelsea Clinton, the journalists from The New York Times who exposed Harvey Weinstein and more inspirational women. I heard from women who are fighting and overcoming various health battles, breaking down stigmas and creating greater awareness of often misunderstood health conditions. We also had the chance to connect with companies creating cutting-edge responses to some of the most complex and pressing problems of our time.

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According to the CDC, on average, 115 Americans die every single day from opioid overdose – and in 2016, an estimated 3 million surgery patients became long-term opioid users.  Did you know that women are prescribed twice as many opioid prescriptions as men? Surgery has become an inadvertent gateway to opioid addiction with nearly 1 in 15 patients becoming drug dependent following a surgery. Bottles of unused opioid prescriptions are sitting idle in medicine cabinets. A recent report found that 13 percent of middle-aged women use opioids three to six months post-operation, placing them at significant risk for dependence and misuse.  In addition, middle-aged women are most at risk of death from opioid overdose, with women ages 40-59 getting opioid prescriptions more than any other group.

As a former public health researcher with a background in addiction research and harm-reduction, having an intimate look into Pacira’s surgeon-lead panel at BlogHer 18 Health was promising – because there are safe and effective non-opioid options available.  Pacira hopes to encourage patients and patient advocates to be empowered and proactive with providers when facing surgery.

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EXPAREL®, a drug developed by Pacira is a long-acting (non-opioid) numbing medication injected during surgery to control pain while limiting the need for opioids following surgery. One of the Pacira panel speakers, Dr. Gregory Greco, a board-certified plastic surgeon, explained how administering EXPAREL during surgery eliminates the need for starting opioid pain relief in the recovery room – because pain management via EXPAREL can last for days. This often eliminates or completely reduces prescriptions of opioids for post-surgical pain management.

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All of the speakers, including a plastic surgeon, oral surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, along with the team running Pacira’s information booth at BlogHer18 Health, spoke of the need to be proactive and informed patients or patient-advocates in surgery consults. With the volume of opioids being prescribed post-surgery, it’s crucial to ask important questions about non-opioid options and post-surgical pain management.

According to the CDC, the number of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010. And so many of us have seen the resulting devastating effects of this epidemic.  We can only hope that others will follow in Pacira’s footsteps with a commitment to reduce prescriptions, exposure, dependence, and deaths due to opioids.

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