HealthDay News — U.S. physicians prescribe opioids more frequently during patient hospitalizations and at discharge compared with physicians in other countries, according to a study published online July 24 in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

Marisha Burden, M.D., from University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, and colleagues compared inpatient analgesic prescribing patterns (dispensed during the first 24 to 36 hours of hospitalization and at discharge) and patients’ perceptions of pain control in four U.S. hospitals and in seven non-U.S. hospitals. Surveys were completed by 503 patients in the United States and 478 patients in other countries.

The researchers found that after adjusting for confounding factors, more U.S. patients were given opioids during their hospitalization versus patients in other countries, regardless of whether they reported taking opioids prior to admission (92 versus 70 percent and 71 versus 41 percent, respectively). A similar trend was seen for opioids prescribed at discharge. There were differences in patient satisfaction, beliefs, and expectations about pain control between U.S. patients and those in other countries.

“While we observed that physicians in the United States more frequently prescribed opioid analgesics during hospitalizations than physicians working in other countries, we also observed that patients in the United States reported higher levels of pain during their hospitalization,” Burden said in a statement. “Our study also suggests that reducing the opioid epidemic in the United States may require addressing patients’ expectations regarding pain control in addition to providers’ inpatient analgesic prescribing patterns.”

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