The increase in opioid prescriptions for people over the past decade may have been paralleled by an increase in opioid prescriptions for pets, according to a study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Veterinary Medicine. The findings, published in JAMA Network Open, suggest that there is also an increased demand for veterinary opioids, driven by complex procedures performed in veterinary medicine, as well as a heightened awareness of the importance of pain management. Given that opioid prescribing in veterinary medicine is not as heavily regulated as medical prescriptions for humans, it is possible that misused veterinary prescriptions could contribute to the ongoing opioid epidemic.
In the study, researchers reviewed all opioid pills and patches dispensed or prescribed for dogs, cats, and other small animals at Penn Vet from January 2007 through December 2017. The results show that the quantity of these prescriptions rose by 41 percent during the period annually, while the annual number of visits rose by only about 13 percent.
“As we are seeing the opioid epidemic press on, we are identifying other avenues of possible human consumption and misuse,” said study senior author Jeanmarie Perrone, a professor of emergency medicine and the director of Medical Toxicology at Penn Medicine. “Even where the increase in prescribed veterinary opioids is well-intended by the veterinarian, it can mean an increased chance of leftover pills being misused later by household members, sold or diverted, or endangering young children through unintentional exposure. The results of this study suggest that by assessing the rate of veterinary opioid prescriptions, we can develop strategies to reduce both human and animal health risks associated with increasing use.”
Read more at Penn Medicine News.