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Invited Commentary |

The Safety of Opioid Analgesics in the Elderly: New Data Raise New Concerns:  Comment on “The Comparative Safety of Opioids for Nonmalignant Pain in Older Adults”

William C. Becker, MD; Patrick G. O’Connor, MD, MPH
Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(22):1986-1988. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.443.
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The consumption of opioid analgesics in the United States has soared during the past decade; prescriptions for 2 of the most commonly prescribed formulations—hydrocodone and oxycodone—nearly doubled from 2001 to 2006.1 This can be attributed in large part to the expansion of the use of opioids in the treatment of noncancer pain, one of the most common reasons US patients seek medical care. In parallel, as opioid dosages and patient access to opioids have increased, so have serious adverse events related to overdose, addiction, and diversion (selling, trading, or giving away one's medication).2 News reports of illegal prescription-medication drug trafficking rings and medication warehouse break-ins have also proliferated. In response, calls for increased regulations on prescribing, including additional physician training and dosage ceilings, have grown louder.3,4

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