Background: Opioid misuse and abuse are growing concerns among the medical and public health communities.
Objectives: To examine the prevalence of indicators for potential opioid misuse in a large, commercially insured adult population.
Methods: We adapted existing indicators developed by expert panels to include having overlapping opioid prescriptions, overlapping opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions, long-acting/ extended release (LA/ER) opioids for acute pain,and high daily doses of opioids (>100 morphine milligram equivalents). These indicators were assessed among continuously enrolled individuals aged 18-64 years from the 2009 Truven Health MarketScan databases. Analyses were stratified by sex.
Results: We identified 3,391,599 eligible enrollees who received at least 1 opioid prescription. On average, enrollees obtained 3.3 opioid prescriptions, and the average annual days of supply was 47 days. Twice as many enrollees received opioid prescriptions for acute pain as for chronic pain. About a quarter of the enrollees had at least 1 indicator of either potential misuse by patients or inappropriate prescription practices by providers. About 15% of enrollees had high daily doses;7.8% had opioid overlap; and 7.9% had opioid and benzodiazepine overlap. Among those prescribed LA/ER opioids, 24.3% were treated for acute pain. Overlap indicators were more common among women.
Conclusions: Our findings underscore the critical need to develop programs aimed at promoting appropriate use of opioids. Retrospective opioid utilization reviews similar to our analyses can potentially help managed care organizations and healthcare providers improve patient care and reduce the risk of adverse outcomes related to these medications.