Researchers examine trends in prescription opioid use for non-cancer pain

A review of more than 4 million insured patients with private coverage and Medicaid, published in the The Journal of Pain showed that rates of opioid use did not differ widely between non-cancer pain conditions but there were higher rates of opioid use among Medicaid patients.

In this study, researchers examined general trends in prescription opioid use in patients covered by HealthCore private insurance and Arkansas Medicaid. They sought to determine if increases in opioids use are limited to particular non-cancer pain (NPC) conditions and how patterns of use differ between NCP conditions and among those with multiple pain conditions.

Trends reported in the study suggest an increased tendency to prescribe long-term opioid therapy, especially for those with multiple pain conditions, which also have been associated with greater psychopathology than single pain conditions. The presence of a comorbid mental disorder may predict opioid use among individuals with chronic pain.

The authors concluded that higher rates of opioid use in the Arkansas Medicaid patients likely reflects the greater disability and disease burden of this population, and added it's also possible this disadvantaged population has less access to nonopioid rehabilitative therapy for NCP compared with privately insured individuals.

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