(HealthDay News) — A restrictive opioid prescription protocol is feasible for surgical patients, according to a study published in JAMA Oncology.

Researchers assessed whether postsurgical acute pain across different surgical subspecialties can be managed effectively after hospital discharge with an opioid supply of 3 or fewer days.

The researchers compared a restrictive protocol specifying an opioid supply of 3 or fewer days with a non-restrictive protocol. The analysis included 2017 patients treated before the restrictive protocol was implemented (Aug. 1, 2018, to Jan. 31, 2019) and 2051 patients treated after the restrictive protocol was implemented (Feb. 1, 2019, to July 31, 2019).

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Opioid prescription days decreased from a mean of 3.9 days before the protocol was implemented to a mean of 1.9 days after. The restrictive protocol was associated with a 45% decrease in prescribed opioids after surgery (157.22 mean morphine milligram equivalents [MME] before the restrictive protocol vs 83.54 MME after).

Fewer refills were requested in the restrictive cohort than in the non-restrictive cohort (17.9% and 20.9%, respectively). After implementation of the restrictive protocol, the conversion rate to chronic opioid use decreased among both opioid-naive patients with cancer (11.3% to 4.5%) and those without cancer (6.1% to 2.7%).

“The findings suggest that prescription of an opioid supply of 3 or fewer days is feasible for most postsurgical patients and may be associated with decreased chronic opioid use,” the study authors wrote.

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