Comparative Analgesic Efficacy of Oxycodone/Acetaminophen vs Codeine/Acetaminophen for Short-Term Pain Management Following ED Discharge

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Abstract

Objective.

To test the hypothesis that oxycodone/acetaminophen provides analgesia superior to codeine/acetaminophen following emergency department (ED) discharge.

Design.

Prospective, randomized, double-blind, trial.

Setting.

Adult inner city ED.

Subjects.

ED patients with acute extremity pain who were discharged home.

Methods.

Patients randomized to oxycodone/acetaminophen (5 mg/325 mg) or codeine/acetaminophen (30 mg/300 mg). The primary outcome, obtained via telephone one day after ED discharge, was the between-group difference in improvement in numerical rating scale (NRS) pain scores over a 2-hour period following the most recent ingestion of study drug. Secondary outcomes included proportion of patients with >50% pain reduction, side-effect profile, and patient satisfaction.

Results.

Two hundred and forty patients were enrolled. Mean baseline NRS scores were 7.9 in both groups. Mean decrease over 2 hours was 4.5 NRS units in the oxycodone/acetaminophen group vs 4.2 NRS units in the codeine/acetaminophen group, for a clinically and statistically nonsignificant difference of 0.2 NRS units (95% CI −0.4–0.9 NRS units). Similarly, 66% vs 61% achieved >50% pain relief for a nonsignificant difference of 5% (95% CI −8% to 17%). Side-effect profile and patient satisfaction were similar.

Conclusion.

Our hypothesis that oxycodone/acetaminophen provides analgesia superior to codeine/acetaminophen was rejected. Although pain within each group was reduced by more than half, the between-group difference was not significant. Pending independent validation, these unexpected findings suggest that codeine/acetaminophen, a Schedule III agent, may be a clinically reasonable outpatient opioid alternative to oxycodone/acetaminophen, a more tightly restricted Schedule II agent thought to be more prone to misuse.

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