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Approximately 75% of prescription opioid abusers obtain the drug from an acquaintance, which may be a consequence of improper opioid storage, use, disposal, and lack of patient education. We aimed to determine the opioid storage, use, and disposal patterns in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) of a comprehensive cancer center.
We surveyed 113 patients receiving opioids for at least 2 months upon presenting to the ED and collected information regarding opioid use, storage, and disposal. Unsafe storage was defined as storing opioids in plain sight, and unsafe use was defined as sharing or losing opioids.
The median age was 53 years, 55% were female, 64% were white, and 86% had advanced cancer. Of those surveyed, 36% stored opioids in plain sight, 53% kept them hidden but unlocked, and only 15% locked their opioids. However, 73% agreed that they would use a lockbox if given one. Patients who reported that others had asked them for their pain medications (p = 0.004) and those who would use a lockbox if given one (p = 0.019) were more likely to keep them locked. Some 13 patients (12%) used opioids unsafely by either sharing (5%) or losing (8%) them. Patients who reported being prescribed more pain pills than required (p = 0.032) were more likely to practice unsafe use. Most (78%) were unaware of proper opioid disposal methods, 6% believed they were prescribed more medication than required, and 67% had unused opioids at home. Only 13% previously received education about safe disposal of opioids. Overall, 77% (87) of patients reported unsafe storage, unsafe use, or possessed unused opioids at home.
Significance of Results:
Many cancer patients presenting to the ED improperly and unsafely store, use, or dispose of opioids, thus highlighting a need to investigate the impact of patient education on such practices.
We describe an exemplary case of congestive heart failure (CHF) symptoms controlled with milrinone. We also analyze the benefits and risks of milrinone administration in an unmonitored setting.
We describe the case of a patient with refractory leukemia and end-stage CHF who developed severe dyspnea after discontinuation of milrinone. At that point, despite starting opioids, she had been severely dyspneic and anxious, requiring admission to the palliative care unit (PCU) for symptom control. After negotiation with hospital administrators, milrinone was administered in an unmonitored setting such as the PCU. A multidisciplinary team approach was also provided.
Milrinone produced a dramatic improvement in the patient's symptom scores and performance status. The patient was eventually discharged to home hospice on a milrinone infusion with excellent symptom control.
Significance of Results:
This case suggests that milrinone may be of benefit for short-term inpatient administration for dyspnea management, even in unmonitored settings and consequently during hospice in do-not-resuscitate (DNR) patients. This strategy may reduce costs and readmissions to the hospital related to end-stage CHF.
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