Aged Care

Study reveals staggering differences in aged care painkiller use


A recent study conducted by Monash University in collaboration with Japan’s Institute for Health Economics and Policy sheds light on striking differences in painkiller medication usage between elderly residents in Australian and Japanese aged care facilities.

Contrary to expectations, the study found that while a significant portion (74%) of Australian aged care residents are prescribed regular painkiller medications, only a mere 11% of Japanese residents receive such prescriptions. Moreover, the use of opioid painkiller medicines in Australian facilities was found to be a staggering 30 times higher compared to those in Japan.

Published in the medical journal Age and Ageing, the study, led by Monash’s Centre for Medicine Use and Safety (CMUS), aimed to delve into the pharmacological management of pain among elderly individuals residing in residential aged care facilities.

Laura Dowd, the study’s lead author and a pharmacist, highlighted the distinct therapeutic approaches and painkiller regulations observed in both countries. Australian participants often cited the goal of alleviating pain, resulting in regular prescriptions of painkillers, whereas Japanese participants focused on minimising the impact of pain on daily activities and prescribed opioids for shorter durations in response to episodic pain.

“These differences in therapeutic goals and painkiller regulations may explain the significant variations in painkiller use between Australia and Japan.”

“Australia and Japan both have rapidly ageing populations but appear to have very different patterns of painkiller use. Understanding these differences can inform new initiatives to improve pain management,”  Dowd said.

Dr Amanda Cross, a Research Fellow at CMUS, emphasised the need for on-site aged care pharmacists to play a pivotal role in ensuring the appropriate use of opioids among residents, building on previous CMUS research findings.

Dr Shota Hamada from the Institute for Health Economics and Policy in Tokyo underscored the importance of understanding painkillers’ role as part of a comprehensive pain management strategy, advocating for safe and effective painkiller use tailored to individual needs.

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Ritchelle is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel, Australia’s premier resource of information for healthcare.

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