Surgeons Are Ditching Opioids for Ibuprofen and Novocain in the OR

(Bloomberg) – Amber McCanna’s hip replacement in 2016 was her sixth surgery in 10 years. It was also the start of a life without opioids.

McCanna, 37, spent years hooked on powerful daily doses of opioids prescribed by her doctors for chronic joint pain. But when she had her most recent operation, it was with the help of an approach that minimizes the use of the highly addictive painkillers that have riven communities and ruined lives across the U.S.

“I haven’t had any narcotics since then,” the mother of three said. “I’ll never allow myself to be dependent on opioids again.”

McCanna is at the forefront of a new movement in U.S. medicine to fight drug dependency. Despite malpractice lawsuits costing millions of dollars, dozens of physician convictions by the Drug Enforcement Administration for criminal misuse of painkillers and 33,000 overdoses in 2015, doctors are still writing hundreds of millions of opioid prescriptions every year. Now, some surgeons and anesthesiologists are trying to squeeze opioids out of the operating room.

Doctors don’t have the luxury of time to wait for a new generation of opioid-free painkillers that companies are racing to develop. So they’re turning to long-established drugs similar to Novocain, a favorite of dentists, to perform procedures using an approach not unlike the epidurals women often receive during childbirth. The difference is that anesthesiologists target specific joints, such as the shoulder, knee or hip. They’re also increasingly recommending alternatives such as massage and meditation to supplement drugs for pain control.

“Opioids are being shunned,” said Lynn Webster, an anesthesiologist and vice president at PRA Health Sciences Inc., a company that helps drugmakers develop medications, including new painkillers. “Physicians are avoiding prescribing them for fear of losing their licenses.”

By John Lauerman | Bloomberg

Image Credit: ExcaliburMedia/Getty Images/iStockphoto


About Peter Coffaro 830 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the orthopedic industry. Recognized by as one of the top medical sales influencers in the industry; he has 10 years of combined sales management experience and has held positions as a Director, General Manager and Distributor. Peter has worked for some of the top orthopedic companies in the world - Zimmer, DePuy and Stryker. He is also the founder of OrthoFeed: a popular blog that covers orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson and has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing and professional education. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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