Opioid prescription claims among women of reproductive age—United States, 2008-2012

Elizabeth C Ailes, April L Dawson, Jennifer N Lind, Suzanne M Gilboa, Meghan T Frey, Cheryl S Broussard, Margaret A Honein
MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2015 January 23, 64 (2): 37-41
Prescription opioid use in the United States has become widespread, and studies of opioid exposure in pregnancy suggest increased risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, including neonatal abstinence syndrome and birth defects (e.g., neural tube defects, gastroschisis, and congenital heart defects). The development of birth defects often results from exposures during the first few weeks of pregnancy, which is a critical period for organ formation. Given that many pregnancies are not recognized until well after the first few weeks and half of all U.S. pregnancies are unplanned, all women who might become pregnant are at risk. Therefore, it is important to assess opioid medication use among all women of reproductive age. CDC used Truven Health's MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters and Medicaid data to estimate the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by outpatient pharmacies to women aged 15-44 years. During 2008-2012, opioid prescription claims were consistently higher among Medicaid-enrolled women when compared with privately insured women (39.4% compared with 27.7%, p<0.001). The most frequently prescribed opioids among women in both groups were hydrocodone, codeine, and oxycodone. Efforts are needed to promote interventions to reduce opioid prescriptions among this population when safer alternative treatments are available.

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