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Use of prescription opioids among patients with rheumatic diseases compared to patients with hypertension in the USA: a retrospective cohort study

20 Jun 2019

Objective

Long-term opioid prescribing has increased amid concerns over effectiveness and safety of its use. We examined long-term prescription opioid use among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS), compared with patients with hypertension (HTN).

Methods

We used Truven MarketScan, a US commercial claims database (2003–2014) and identified RA, SLE, PsA and AS cohorts, each matched by age and sex to patients with HTN. We compared long-term opioid prescription use during 1 year of follow-up and used multivariable Poisson regression model to estimate the relative risk (RR) of receiving opioid prescriptions based on underlying disease cohort.

Results

We identified 181 710 RA (mean age 55.3±13.1, 77% female), 45 834 SLE (47.1±13.1, 91% female), 30 307 PsA (49.7±11.5, 51% female), 7686 AS (44.6±12.0, 39% female) and parallel numbers of age-matched and sex-matched patients with HTN. The proportion of patients receiving long-term opioid prescriptions, and other measures of opioid prescriptions were higher among rheumatic disease cohorts and highest in patients with AS. AS was associated with the highest RR of receiving long-term opioid prescriptions (RR 2.73, 95% CI 2.60 to 2.87) versus HTN, while RRs were 2.21 (2.16 to 2.25) for RA, 1.94 (1.87 to 2.00) for PsA and 1.82 (1.77 to 1.88) for SLE.

Conclusions

Patients with rheumatic disease have higher rates of long-term opioid prescriptions, and patients with AS have the highest risk of receiving opioid prescriptions versus patients with HTN. Further studies investigating the effectiveness of disease-targeted treatments on decreasing opioid use in these four rheumatic diseases may provide strategies for reducing prescription opioids.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open