Between 2008 and 2018, prescriptions for opioid painkillers almost doubled in Switzerland, reported RTS this week.
Opioid prescriptions for minor injuries rose by 88.3% and those for serious injuries by 91.4% over the decade, according to a study run by Baden hospital. The study shows how the drugs are often prescribed for mild pain. According to some doctors many of these prescriptions are unjustified. In many cases opioids are no more effective than other painkillers but come with worse side effects.
Even inappropriate use of mild opioids concerns experts. Mapi Fleury, a pharmacist at CHUV hospital in Lausanne, is especially concerned by the use of mild opioids such as Tramadol. Taking a mild opioid comes with the same risks of undesirable side effects and risks of addiction, according to Fleury.
The authors of the study found Switzerland was in the top four prescribers of opioids in the world. The new trend observed in rising opioid use is a rise in consumption of these drugs beyond the treatment of tumour pain in cancer patients.
Part of the problem is perception. Patients can believe that products like Tramadol are not true opioids, which is clearly false, said Fleury. Those providing the prescriptions can also fall into the same trap, driven by a desire to quickly help patients with their pain.