JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Adverse selection? A multi-dimensional profile of people dispensed opioid analgesics for persistent non-cancer pain.

OBJECTIVES: This study investigates utilisation patterns for prescription opioid analgesics in the Australian community and how these are associated with a framework of individual-level factors related to healthcare use.

METHODS: Self-reported demographic and health information from participants in the 45 and Up Study cohort were linked to pharmaceutical claims from 2006-2009. Participants comprised 19,816 people with ≥1 opioid analgesic dispensing in the 12-months after recruitment to the cohort and 79,882 people not dispensed opioid analgesics. All participants were aged ≥45 years, were social security pharmaceutical beneficiaries, with no history of cancer. People dispensed opioid analgesics were classified as having acute (dispensing period <90 days), episodic (≥90 days and <3 'authority' prescriptions for increased quantity supply) or long-term treatment (≥90 days and ≥3 authority prescriptions).

RESULTS: Of participants dispensed opioid analgesic 52% received acute treatment, 25% episodic treatment and 23% long-term treatment. People dispensed opioid analgesics long-term had an average of 14.9 opioid analgesic prescriptions/year from 2.0 doctors compared with 1.5 prescriptions from 1.1 doctors for people receiving acute treatment. People dispensed opioid analgesics reported more need-related factors such as poorer physical functioning and higher psychological distress. Long-term users were more likely to have access-related factors such as low-income and living outside major cities. After simultaneous adjustment, association with predisposing health factors and access diminished, but indicators of need such as osteoarthritis treatment, paracetamol use, and poor physical function were the strongest predictors for all opioid analgesic users.

CONCLUSIONS: People dispensed opioid analgesics were in poorer health, reported higher levels of distress and poorer functioning than people not receiving opioid analgesics. Varying dispensing profiles were evident among people dispensed opioid analgesics for persistent pain, with those receiving episodic and long-term treatment dispensed the strongest opioid analgesics. The findings highlight the broad range of factors associated with longer term opioid analgesics use.

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