Clinicians at Brigham and Women’s Hospital published a paper in the December issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia showing that digital pills successfully monitored patients taking opioids following an injury.
“As an investigational tool, the digital pill provides a direct measure of opioid ingestion and changes in medication-taking behavior,” senior author Dr. Edward Boyer said in prepared remarks. “This technology may also make it possible for physicians to monitor adherence, identify escalating opioid use patterns that may suggest the development of tolerance or addiction and intervene for a specific medical condition or patient population.”
Fifteen emergency department patients with an acute fracture completed the study, according to the clinicians. The researchers told the study participants to use one to two 5 mg oxycodone digital pills every six to eight hours to manage their pain and leftover pills were returned after one week.
The team found that most participants opted to use opioids during the first three days following discharge from the emergency department and that on average, patients took just six pills, despite being given 21.
“It is fascinating to see this technology literally live and in action, especially in light of recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the risk of long-term opioid addiction in patients who have even short courses of oxycodone. These data are important as we continue to have more careful and directed conversations regarding the expectant management of pain, and the dangers associated with opioid use,” corresponding author Dr. Peter Chai added.
“The findings of our pilot study indicate that most patients stopped taking their prescription opioid after only a brief period, even among patients with fractures that required surgical management.”