Target RWE, an innovative health evidence solutions company based in Durham, North Carolina recently announced its current data from the study of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) via PRNewswire.
The study, entitled TARGET-NASH, analyzed 3,474 patients who had been diagnosed with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Depression, cirrhosis, and anxiety that often accompany NAFLD were generally associated with the use of opioids.
The researchers conducted the study in part because of the many people living with NAFLD and chronic pain who have been prescribed opioids.
On the other hand, physicians are aware that taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain causes a risk of damage to the gastrointestinal tract and renal toxicities.
However low to normal use of NSAIDS appears to be safe.
Note that when taking NSAIDs such as ibuprofen for an extended period, patients must use caution to avoid kidney damage as NSAIDs are cleared from the bloodstream by the kidneys.
Eighteen percent of these patients had documented the use of opioids. Patients whose liver disease had progressed significantly were more likely to use opioids.
Due to the growing concern about opioid use by NAFLD patients, identifying those with the potential to use opioids may motivate practitioners to seek alternative therapies for pain. Alternative therapies may include low-dose acetaminophen and non-pharmacologic therapies.
About the TARGET-NASH Study
The study observed patient characteristics in connection with opioid use in patients diagnosed with NAFLD across fifty-five sites in the U.S. Eligible adult patients provided evidence of opioid prescriptions within a year prior to enrollment.
Investigators were able to predict patients with the potential for opioid use by observing their history in connection with abdominal pain, back pain, depression, and body mass index.
Lead author, Dr. Andrew Moon, of North Carolina University at Chapel Hill, commented that to date there is minimal data available regarding the use of opioids and their association to pain among NAFLD patients.
Dr. Moon’s co-author Dr. Sidney Barritt, also of Chapel Hill, explained that researchers identified a connection between opioids and obesity. He believes this to be important as chronic neck, back, or shoulder pain limit mobility and patients are unable to exercise. This is critical because exercise has proven to lessen hepatic steatosis and improve mobility for NAFLD patients.
Results of the Study
Following enrollment, researchers collected three years of past data and five years of future data. This included biospecimen samples and the patient’s own description of his or her medical condition.
At the conclusion of the study, investigators found that almost one out of every five NAFLD patients had used prescription opioids.
The primary result of the study is a firm recommendation that alternative methods of controlling pain should be explored for patients diagnosed with NAFLD.