While the dangers of overdose among patients prescribed powerful opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin and fentanyl are well known, a new study found unexpected heart risks with the medications.
Patients who had just been prescribed an opioid painkiller had a 64 percent higher risk of early death when compared to patients who were given an alternative pain medication. But much of that increased risk was related to the onset of breathing difficulties during sleep, followed by heart rhythm irregularities and other cardiovascular complications.
“However, the large increase in cardiovascular death risk is a novel finding,” Ray said. “[And] it suggests being even more cautious with opioids for patients who are at high cardiovascular risk, such as those who have had a heart attack or have diabetes.”