Opioid prescribing for chronic musculoskeletal pain in UK primary care: results from a cohort analysis of the COPERS trial.
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OBJECTIVE: To establish the level of opioid prescribing for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain in a sample of patients from primary care and to estimate prescription costs. DESIGN: Secondary data analyses from a two-arm pragmatic randomised controlled trial (COPERS) testing the effectiveness of group self-management course and usual care against relaxation and usual care for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain (ISRCTN 24426731). SETTING: 25 general practices and two community musculoskeletal services in the UK (London and Midlands). PARTICIPANTS: 703 chronic pain participants; 81% white, 67% female, enrolled in the COPERS trial. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Anonymised prescribing data over 12 months extracted from GP electronic records. RESULTS: Of the 703 trial participants with chronic musculoskeletal pain, 413 (59%) patients were prescribed opioids. Among those prescribed an opioid, the number of opioid prescriptions varied from 1 to 52 per year. A total of 3319 opioid prescriptions were issued over the study period, of which 53% (1768/3319) were for strong opioids (tramadol, buprenorphine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and tapentadol). The mean number of opioid prescriptions per patient prescribed any opioid was 8.0 (SD=7.9). A third of patients on opioids were prescribed more than one type of opioid; the most frequent combinations were: codeine plus tramadol and codeine plus morphine. The cost of opioid prescriptions per patient per year varied from £3 to £4844. The average annual prescription cost was £24 (SD=29) for patients prescribed weak opioids and £174 (SD=421) for patients prescribed strong opioids. Approximately 40% of patients received >3 prescriptions of strong opioids per year, with an annual cost of £236 per person. CONCLUSIONS: Long-term prescribing of opioids for chronic musculoskeletal pain is common in primary care. For over a quarter of patients receiving strong opioids, these drugs may have been overprescribed according to national guidelines. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN24426731; Post-results.
AuthorsAshaye, T; Hounsome, N; Carnes, D; Taylor, SJC; Homer, K; Eldridge, S; Spencer, A; Rahman, A; Foell, J; Underwood, MR; COPERS Study Team (ISRCTN 24426731).
- Population Health