Patients Getting Risky Steroid Injections for Back Pain due to Limited Opioid Availability

August 20, 2018 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


​Off-label use of Depo-Medrol (methylprednisolone) injections for back pain is increasing in part because prescribers have reduced their use of opioids, but the treatment is risky and has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), states a July 31, 2018, New York Timesarticle. The Times reports that "interviews with dozens of pain specialists show that pressure to wean patients off opioids is prompting many doctors to refer patients to pain intervention specialists who promote the shots." The number of Medicare providers offering epidural steroid injections increased 13% from 2012 to 2016, and the number of Medicare beneficiaries receiving the shots rose by 7.5%, states the article. Depo-Medrol is approved only for injection into muscles and joints, but it is being used off-label for epidural (spinal) administration, which carries significant risks.

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