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New Medication to Treat Pain May Help Curb Opioid Epidemic

New Medication to Treat Pain May Help Curb Opioid Epidemic

Pacira Pharmaceuticals recently claimed that their drug Exparel, an anesthetic that has been on the market for five years, could change the way pain is treated, and potentially help control the opioid crisis (De la Cretaz, 2017).


Exparel “is a long-lasting anesthetic that is reported to control pain for up to seventy-two hours following a surgical procedure . . . and acts as a numbing agent” (De la Cretaz, 2017). Dr. Paul Sethi, an orthopedic surgeon, stated, “It [has] half my patients for shoulder replacement taking only Tylenol afterwards” (De la Cretaz, 2017), versus the opioids that are more commonly prescribed postsurgery. 


There is a medication similar to Exparel that is much cheaper: bupivacaine. While a vial of Exparel could run around $285, a vial of bupivacaine could be around $3 (De la Cretaz, 2017). Studies done in 2015 noted that Exparel was “no more effective than an older form of treatment, bupivacaine” (De la Cretaz, 2017), which leads some to question why Exparel is worth the large increase in cost. 


Of the over 70 million patients who are prescribed opioids after a surgery, one in fifteen will use the drugs long-term, which raises the risk of addiction and overdose (De la Cretaz, 2017). According to Dr. Sethi, Exparel “has changed the way I think about treating patients from the beginning until the end. I talk about pain medication differently. My patients understand pain medications and the risks differently” (De la Cretaz, 2017).  




De la Cretaz, B. (2017). Could this new pain medication help curb the opioid crisis? Retrieved from https://www.thefix.com/could-new-pain-medication-help-curb-opioid-crisis