Costs of gastrointestinal events after outpatient opioid treatment for non-cancer pain

Winghan Jacqueline Kwong, Joris Diels, Shane Kavanagh
Annals of Pharmacotherapy 2010, 44 (4): 630-40

BACKGROUND: Gastrointestinal (GI) adverse effects are common with oral opioid treatment.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the costs associated with GI events after oral short-acting opioid treatment, from the payer perspective.

METHODS: Medical and pharmacy claims from the PharMetrics' Patient-Centric Database were used to identify opioid-naïve patients who received a new prescription for oxycodone- or hydrocodone-containing immediate-release oral products between 2002 and 2006. Health-care resource use and costs were determined for patients with claims associated with ICD-9 CM (International Classification of Diseases-9th Clinical Modification) codes for nausea/vomiting (787.0x), constipation (564.0x), bowel obstruction (560, 560.1, 560.3, 560.39, 564.81), or antiemetic and laxative prescriptions during the 3 months after opioid index prescription and compared with patients without these GI event medical or prescription claims. Resource use data were compared using negative binomial regression and cost data were compared using ordinary least squares confirmed by generalized gamma regression analysis while controlling for demographics, treatment duration, and comorbidities.

RESULTS: Data from 237,447 patients were analyzed. Patients with GI event claims had significantly more hospitalizations (adjusted mean 0.20 to 0.97 vs 0.17, respectively, p < 0.001), days in the hospital (1.12 to 12.05 vs 1.00 days, p < 0.001), emergency department visits (0.36 to 1.44 vs 0.25 visits, p < 0.001), outpatient office visits (5.68 to 11.81 vs 4.11 visits, p < 0.001), and prescription claims (7.46 to 8.21 vs 6.06 claims, p < 0.001) than did patients without any GI event claims in the 3 months after index opioid prescription. Compared with patients without any GI event claims, incremental adjusted mean total health-care costs for patients with any of the GI event claims ranged from $4,880 to $36,152 and were significant (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: The economic burden of GI events coincident with opioid treatment is significant for patients with a GI event recorded in claims. Reducing GI adverse effects has potential cost savings for the health-care system.

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