The Future of Opioid Reduction and Improved Patient Care
For the first time in my life, I have decided to consult with and speak on behalf of a publicly-traded pharmaceutical company. I enter this relationship with eyes wide open and with tremendous enthusiasm and hope.
For the last five years of my career, I have been dedicated to reducing pain in hernia surgery – through operating technique, education, and the thoughtful administration of pain-relieving medication both during surgery and after surgery.
Most recently, I have had the honor of chairing and creating a task force within The Americas Hernia Society Quality Collaborative (AHSQC). Our mission is completely geared toward the reduction of opioid usage. Medical literature indicates that 1-in-16 patients given an opioid prescription become dependent for at least six months. With more than 1 million hernia surgeries done in the U.S. every year, that’s nearly 100,000 patients who can become dependent on opioids after surgery.
Heron Therapeutics and Our Common Goal
Surgeons need to take the lead to solve the opioid problem. Myself, the AHSQC, and Heron Therapeutics share the common goal of reducing the number of opioids prescribed post-operatively. Heron Therapeutics is currently performing research on and hoping to receive FDA approval for a local anesthetic (numbing) medication administered during surgery that can relieve pain for three to six days post-operatively.
To achieve this, Heron Therapeutics has gone through rigorous training and clinical trials in hernia and bunionectomy patients. They demonstrated a significant reduction in the need for prescribing opioids. The initial trials were performed in a somewhat artificial setting, as patients were kept in a hospital environment for several days when they would normally recover from home. Heron Therapeutics has decided to roll out additional clinical trials where patients are sent home after surgery. The goal is to demonstrate the same degree of pain relief from home, with minimal or no opioid usage.
I am thrilled with the potential benefit to patients on the horizon. I also support Heron Therapeutics’ multimodal approach. They are looking at everything that goes into decreasing opioid prescriptions, including pre-operative medication regimens, intra-operative anesthesia and post-operative education for patients.
This is a very holistic approach that’s in alignment with the way I think about patient care. If Heron Therapeutics’ local anesthetic medication is as effective as it appears to be, it can potentially relieve post-operative pain for many patients and eliminate the need for opioid prescriptions in almost all hernia patients. It can also lead to an earlier hospital discharge for many surgical procedures.
Am I sure this medication is going to work? The initial data is very convincing. I’m excited to participate in the clinical trials and give my opinions about the mission. I have my own voice and perspectives, and as long as I have the freedom to express my thoughts, I plan on continuing this relationship.
I invite patient and colleague feedback on AHSQC’s and Heron Thearputics’ common, methodical, research-based mission to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients. I am optimistic that in a couple of years, we will see tremendous improvements in hernia care and opioid reduction across the country.