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Sentinel Alert on Opioids Spotlights Provider Misuse

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 13, 2012

"Healthcare workers need to be aware of the risks to patients in prescribing opioids" in inpatient settings, she wrote.

With respect to unintended respiratory depression, the alert said:
•  The risk may be greater with higher opioid doses.
•  The occurrence may actually be higher than reported.
•  There is a higher incidence observed in clinical trials.
•  Various patients are at higher risk...including patients with sleep apnea, patients who are morbidly obese, who are very young, who are elderly, who are very ill and who concurrently receive other drugs that are central nervous system and respiratory depressants (e.g., anxiolytics, sedatives).

Respiratory depression risks also increase with age by 2.8 times for patients 61-70. 5/4 times for people 71-80, and 8.7 times higher for those over age 80.

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