A Miracle Pill?
Dr. Paul B. Jacob is no stranger to the devastating effects opioids can have on unwitting patients. The Oklahoma doctor has seen many of his patients struggle with dependence on this powerful family of drugs over the years.
When asked about the potential dangers of opioids, he responded,
“A staggering 70 million patients receive opioids in a hospital or clinic following surgery each year…What most people don’t know is that one in 15 of these patients end up using these drugs long-term” (Edmond Sun).
Dr. Jacob was sure there had to be a better solution to post-surgery pain management than Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, and other opioids.
Well, it looks like there is. Enter Exparel, a local anesthetic that’s been making waves in the medical community recently. Not only has it shown some serious potential as a pain management drug, but it’s also decreased surgical recovery time.
Read on to learn about Exparel and its impact on doctors prescribing opioids!
The Benefits of Exparel
Dr. Jacob has touted the effectiveness of Exparel as an alternative to opioids for a little while now. He’s used the drug in his pain management and post surgery regimen and had some real success.
He’ll inject his patient with the chemical towards the end of surgery. This renders post surgery opioid medicines obsolete. This, in turn, almost completely removes the risk of addiction and other common opioid side effects (think nausea, constipation, etc.).
In a recent article in the Edmond Sun, one of Dr. Jacob’s patients is quoted as saying she had no pain after a knee replacement and was walking the same day. She went on to say that she was fully recuperated within ten days.
That’s pretty impressive!
When asked about whether opioid painkillers were still medically necessary, Dr. Jacob said,
“In the post-surgery setting, narcotics are no longer our only or best option…we need to move away from our ‘opioid-centric’ pain management and incorporate non-narcotic alternatives…into our standard of care. Turning off the flow of opioids from the postsurgical setting is a simple, actionable step we can take today to prevent one more person from going down the road to addiction” (Edmond Sun).
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What Exactly is Exparel?
Okay, it’s clear that Exparel has some serious benefits when compared with narcotics, but what exactly is this chemical? How is it able to control pain so well? More importantly, is it safe for patients?
Well, without getting too scientific, Exparel is the brand name of Bupivacaine. Bupivacaine is amino amide local anesthetic. That means it blocks nerve signals from firing and, by doing so, significantly reduces pain signals that reach the brain.
Bupivacaine is listed as one of the World Health Organization’s “Essential Medicines.” It’s also the most commonly used drug for pregnancy epidurals.
Despite this popularity, there are some risks associated with Exparel. It’s incredibly damaging to heart tissue and can trigger hypotension, an arrhythmia, or even a heart attack. These side effects are incredibly rare, but do exist.
So, what’s the final verdict? Is bupivacaine a miracle pill that can erase the need for opioids? Is it going to help fight the tight of prescription painkiller abuse in America? Or is it another promising medicine that simply won’t pan out?
That remains to be seen. Although bupivacaine and Exparel have been around for quite some time, they’ve only recently begun to be used as an alternative to traditional opioids.
One thing’s for sure – anything that cuts down on the staggering amount of opioid prescriptions being written each year is a good thing. We can all agree on that!