All-Cause Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed: The Outsized Role of Adults With Arthritis


      Limited estimates of prescribed opioid use among adults with arthritis exist. All-cause (i.e., for any condition) prescribed opioid dispensed (referred to as opioid prescription in the remainder of this abstract) in the past 12 months among U.S. adults aged ≥18 years (n=35,427) were studied, focusing on adults with arthritis (n=12,875).


      In 2018–2019, estimates were generated using Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data: (1) 2015 prevalence of 1 or more opioid prescriptions to U.S. adults overall and by arthritis status and (2) in 2014–2015, among adults with arthritis, multivariable-adjusted associations between 1 or more opioid prescriptions and sociodemographic characteristics, health status, and healthcare utilization characteristics.


      In 2015, the age-standardized prevalence of 1 or more opioid prescriptions among adults with arthritis (29.6%) was almost double of that for all adults (15.4%). Adults with arthritis represented more than half of all adults (55.3%) with at least 1 opioid prescription; among those with 1 or more prescriptions, 43.2% adults had 4 or more prescriptions. The strongest multivariable-adjusted associations with 1 or more opioid prescriptions were ambulatory care visits (1–4: prevalence ratios=1.9–2.0, 5–8: prevalence ratios=2.5−2.7, 9 or more: prevalence ratios=3.4−3.7) and emergency room visits (1: prevalence ratios=1.6, 2–3: prevalence ratios=1.9−2.0, 4 or more: prevalence ratios=2.4); Ref for both: no visits.


      Adults with arthritis are a high-need target group for improving pain management, representing more than half of all U.S. adults with 1 or more opioid prescriptions. The association with ambulatory care visits suggests that providers have routine opportunities to discuss comprehensive and integrative pain management strategies, including low-cost evidence-based self-management approaches (e.g., physical activity, self-management education programs, cognitive behavioral therapy). Those with multiple opioid prescriptions may need extra support if transitioning to nonopioid and nonpharmacologic pain management strategies.
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