Controlling postoperative use of i.v. acetaminophen at an academic medical center

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Results of an interprofessional formulary initiative to decrease postoperative prescribing of i.v. acetaminophen are reported.


After a medical center added i.v. acetaminophen to its formulary, increased prescribing of the i.v. formulation and a 3-fold price increase resulted in monthly spending of more than $40,000, prompting an organizationwide effort to curtail that cost while maintaining effective pain management. The surgery, anesthesia, and pharmacy departments applied the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Model for Improvement to implement (1) pharmacist-led enforcement of prescribing restrictions, (2) retrospective evaluation of i.v. acetaminophen's impact on rates of opioid-related adverse effects, (3) restriction of prescribing of the drug to 1 postoperative dose on select patient care services, and (4) guideline-driven pain management according to an enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocol. Monitored metrics included the monthly i.v. acetaminophen prescribing rate, the proportion of i.v. acetaminophen orders requiring pharmacist intervention to enforce prescribing restrictions, and prescribing rates for select adjunctive analgesics. Within a year of project implementation, the mean monthly i.v. acetaminophen prescribing rate decreased by 83% from baseline to about 6 doses per 100 patient-days, with a decline in the monthly drug cost to about $4,000. Documented pharmacist interventions increased 2.7-fold, and use of oral acetaminophen, ketorolac, and gabapentin in ERAS areas increased by 18% overall.


An interprofessional initiative at a large medical center reduced postoperative use of i.v. acetaminophen by more than 80% and yielded over $400,000 in annual cost savings.

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