JOURNAL ARTICLE

Reimbursement of analgesics for chronic pain

Line Pedersen, Anneli Borge Hansen, Kristian Svendsen, Svetlana Skurtveit, Petter C Borchgrevink, Olav Magnus S Fredheim
Tidsskrift for Den Norske Lægeforening: Tidsskrift for Praktisk Medicin, Ny Række 2012 November 27, 132 (22): 2489-93
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BACKGROUND: The prevalence of chronic non-malignant pain in Norway is between 24% and 30%. The proportion of the population using opioids for non-malignant pain on a long-term basis is around 1%. The purpose of our study was to investigate how many were prescribed analgesics on reimbursable prescription under reimbursement code -71 (chronic non-malignant pain) in 2009 and 2010, which analgesics were prescribed and whether prescribing practices were in accordance with national guidelines.

MATERIAL AND METHOD: We retrieved pseudonymised data from the National Prescription Database on all those who received drugs with reimbursement code -71 in 2009 and 2010. The data contain information on drug, dosage, formulation, reimbursement code and date of issue.

RESULTS: 90,731 patients received reimbursement for drugs indicated for chronic non-malignant pain in 2010. Of these, 6,875 were given opioids, 33,242 received paracetamol, 25,865 non-steroid inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), 20,654 amitryptiline and 16,507 gabapentin. Oxycodone was the most frequently prescribed opioid, followed by buprenorphine, tramadol and codeine/paracetamol. Of those who were prescribed opioids, 4,047 (59%) received mainly slow-release opioids, 2,631 (38%) also received benzodiazepines and 2,418 (35%) received benzodiazepine-like sleep medications.

CONCLUSION: The number of patients who received analgesics and opioids on reimbursable prescriptions was low compared to the proportion of the population with chronic pain and the proportion using opioids long-term. 38% of those reimbursed for opioids also used benzodiazepines, which is contrary to official Norwegian guidelines.

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