Patients given lower prescription quantities of opioid tablets with and without opioid education used significantly less of the medication compared with those given more tablets and no education, according to data from 264 adults and adolescents who underwent anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery.
Although lower default prescription programs have been shown to reduce the number of tablets prescribed, “the effect of reduced prescription quantities on actual patient opioid consumption remains undetermined,” wrote Kevin X. Farley, BS, of Emory University, Atlanta, and colleagues.
In a study published in, the researchers examined whether patients took fewer tablets if given fewer, and whether patient education about opioids further reduced the number of tablets taken.
The study population included adults and adolescents who underwent ACL surgery at a single center. The patients were divided into three groups: 109 patients received 50 opioid tablets after surgery, 78 received 30 tablets plus education prior to surgery about appropriate opioid use and alternative pain management, and 77 received 30 tablets but no education on opioid use.
Patients given 50 tablets consumed an average of 25 tablets for an average of 5.8 days. By contrast, patients given 30 tablets but no opioid education consumed an average of 16 tablets for an average of 4.5 days, and those given 30 tablets and preoperative education consumed an average of 12 tablets for an average of 3.5 days.
In addition, patients given 30 tablets reported lower levels of constipation and fatigue compared with patients given 50 tablets. No differences were seen in medication refills among the groups.
The findings were limited by several factors including the use of data from a single center, the lack of randomization, and the potential for recall bias, the researchers noted. However, the results suggest that prescribing fewer tablets may further reduce use, as each group consumed approximately half of the tablets given, the researchers added.
“Further investigation should evaluate whether similar opioid stewardship and education protocols would be successful in other patient populations,” they said.
Corresponding author John Xerogeanes, MD, disclosed personal fees from Arthrex and stock options from Trice. The other researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.