Post-operation opioid guidelines crafted by Johns Hopkins panel

BALTIMORE - Defying the more common "blanket approach" of post-operation opioid prescription, a Johns Hopkins expert panel has crafted a set of operation-specific opioid prescribing guidelines.

The guidelines cover 20 common operations and generally call for reductions to the current rates of prescribing, researchers said. Most patients favor using less of their medication than what is frequently prescribed. 

The panel that developed these guidelines consisted of 30 surgeons, pain specialists, outpatient surgical nurse practitioners, surgical residents, patients and pharmacists. Using a 5 mg oxycodone pill as a standard dosage, the panel recommended one to 15 pills for 11 of the 20 procedures, 16 to 20 pills for six of the procedures, and zero pills for three.

“It’s unfortunate guidelines haven’t already existed. Giving patients dangerous opioid pills they don’t need is part of how we got into this opioid crisis in the first place,” says Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H. a professor of surgery and health policy expert at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s senior author. “Prescriptions for pain meds after surgery should be custom tailored to the operation and a patient’s needs and goals, but the hope is that these guidelines will help reset ‘defaults’ that have been dangerously high for too long.”

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