Opioid utilization patterns among medicare patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy

Jacqueline Pesa, Roxanne Meyer, Tiffany P Quock, Stacy K Rattana, Samir H Mody
American Health & Drug Benefits 2013, 6 (4): 188-96

BACKGROUND: Diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) affects a large percentage of patients with type 2 diabetes and is associated with moderate-to-severe pain. Patients with DPN bear a substantial economic burden as a result of increased overall healthcare utilization. The reported costs of treating DPN are nearly $11 billion, with elderly (aged ≥65 years) patients with type 2 diabetes accounting for 93.1% ($10.2 billion) of the total costs.

OBJECTIVES: To describe the real-world utilization patterns of long-acting opioids (LAOs) and chronic short-acting opioids (SAOs) use in a sample of Medicare enrollees (aged ≥65 years) with painful DPN, and to identify potential areas for improvement in the management of elderly patients with painful DPN who are treated with opioids.

METHODS: In this retrospective pharmacy claims analysis, the Chronic Opioid Medication Use Evaluation (MUE) software was used to import and analyze individual plan, retrospective pharmacy utilization claims data from the MarketScan claims databases. Patients aged ≥65 years who had painful DPN as identified by ≥2 International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis codes for painful DPN (250.6X or 357.2) in at least 2 quarters in 2009, and who had ≥1 claims for LAO and/or chronic use of SAO (≥60 days of continuous therapy), were selected for analysis. Pharmacy claim data were extracted for 12 months, and various opioid utilization measures were reported.

RESULTS: A total of 1448 unique Medicare patients with painful DPN were identified who had 11,740 claims for an LAO and/or chronic use of an SAO. Of the 1448 patients, 62% had chronic use of an SAO, and of these, 89% had no concurrent claim for LAO (minimum, 60-day overlap). The most frequently filled LAOs were fentanyl transdermal (38%), oxycodone controlled release (CR; 26%), and morphine CR/extended release (ER)/sustained release (SR; 20%). The daily average consumptions for fentanyl transdermal, oxycodone CR, and morphine CR/ER/SR were 0.3, 2.5, and 2.4, respectively. Among the study population, 15.2% of the patients filled an LAO or SAO prescription at ≥2 pharmacies. Furthermore, these elderly patients with painful DPN used greater doses of LAOs than what is recommended in the package insert, and 1.6% of patients used high doses of acetaminophen and 15.2% utilized multiple pharmacies to obtain their opioid prescriptions. Moreover, this population had prevalent concomitant use of opioids and prescribed gastrointestinal (GI) medications.

CONCLUSION: Results from our retrospective pharmacy claims analysis demonstrated that elderly patients with painful DPN use doses of LAOs above those recommended in the package insert, with some patients using high doses of acetaminophen and utilizing multiple pharmacies to obtain their opioid prescriptions. In addition, this population had prevalent concomitant use of opioids and prescription GI medications. The use of software, such as the Opioid MUE, to monitor opioid drug utilization trends and examine other utilization measures can assist healthcare decision makers and payers in their utilization reviews to appropriately manage this population.

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