Bone & joint health Sunnybrook Magazine - Fall 2019

New program offers safer disposal of unused pain medication

A half-full pill bottle lays on its side on a table, with a few pills spilling out.

After hip or knee replacement surgery, most patients are prescribed medication to help manage potential pain. 

“Pain can vary. For a patient with a knee replacement, pain may be slight after surgery but more intense as they start physiotherapy,” says Dr. Bheeshma Ravi, an orthopaedic surgeon at Sunnybrook’s Holland Bone and Joint Program. “We know medications are helpful if [patients] need them, but risky to have in the home if they don’t.” 

To support patients, teams are piloting RECOVERED (Reclaiming ExCess Opioids for VERifiEd Disposal), a program offering a secure way to dispose of medication they don’t need.  

Hip and knee joint replacement patients at the Holland Centre are asked to bring in all medications to their six-week follow-up with their doctors. At this appointment, the doctor reviews pain management and medication needs with the patient. If pain medications are no longer needed, the patient can return the unused portion. Any returned opioids are locked away and removed only by authorized personnel for verified disposal. 

“RECOVERED works in tandem with other pain management supports, including education for patients while in hospital and 24-hour on-call assistance,” says Andrew Kennedy, project co-lead and manager of the Pre-operative Clinic at the Holland Centre. 

While the program is primarily about helping manage post-surgery pain, it offers additional benefits to patients, adds Dr. Ravi, project co-lead. “We hope by participating in RECOVERED, they may [also] feel empowered in helping to reduce harm.” 

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Natalie Chung-Sayers