Background: Dialysis patients require special consideration regarding analgesics, given their altered pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profiles and increased potential for adverse reactions.
Methods: Analgesic prescription patterns were investigated using data from the Dialysis Outcomes and Practice Patterns Study (DOPPS), with 3749 patients in 142 United States facilities studied between May 1996 and September 2001.
Results: The proportion of patients prescribed any analgesic decreased from 30.2% to 24.3%; narcotic prescriptions decreased from 18.0% to 14.9%. The most commonly prescribed narcotics were propoxyphene/acetaminophen combinations (47.2%). Combinations containing acetaminophen were prescribed concurrently for 84.1% of patients on narcotics. About one half of prescriptions for narcotics, acetaminophen, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) agents were for 12 months or more; one half of prescriptions for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were for 8 months or more. The proportion of patients prescribed analgesics varied by facility (mean +/- SD = 27.9%+/- 18.9% for all analgesics, range 0% to 89.3%). Analgesic prescription was more likely among the elderly, women, and patients with cardiovascular disease (other than coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure), lung and psychiatric disease, cancer (other than skin), and recurrent cellulitis. Patients prescribed laxatives were almost twice as likely to be on a narcotic (odds ratio = 1.95, P < 0.0001). Analgesic prescription did not correlate with loss of residual renal function or hospitalization for a gastrointestinal disorder. Three-quarters of patients reporting moderate to very severe pain were not prescribed analgesics. Furthermore, 74% of patients with pain that interfered with work had no analgesic prescription.
Conclusion: Dialysis patients and providers may benefit from both refinement of existing guidelines and a renewed understanding regarding appropriate prescription of analgesics.