Trends in Opioid Prescribing Among Hemodialysis Patients, 2007-2014

Am J Nephrol. 2019;49(1):20-31. doi: 10.1159/000495353. Epub 2018 Dec 13.


Background: Hemodialysis (HD) patients frequently experience pain. Previous studies of HD patients suggest increased opioid prescribing through 2010. It remains unclear if this trend continued after 2010 or declined with national trends.

Methods: Longitudinal cohort study of 484,745 HD patients in the United States Renal Data System/Medicare data. We used Poisson/negative binomial regression to estimate annual incidence rates of opioid prescribing between 2007 and 2014. We compared prescribing rates with the general US population using IQVIA's National Prescription Audit data. Outcomes included the following: percent of HD patients receiving an opioid prescription, rate of opioid prescriptions, quantity, days supply, morphine milligram equivalents (MME) dispensed per 100 person-days, and prescriptions per person.

Results: In 2007, 62.4% of HD patients received an opioid prescription. This increased to 63.2% in 2010 then declined to 53.7% by 2014. Opioid quantity peaked in 2011 at 73.5 pills per 100 person-days and declined to 62.6 pills per 100 person-days in 2014. MME peaked between 2010 and 2012 then declined through 2014. In 2014, MME rates were 1.8-fold higher among non-Hispanic patients and 1.6-fold higher among low-income patients. HD patients received 3.2-fold more opioid prescriptions per person compared to the general US population and were primarily prescribed oxycodone and hydrocodone. Between 2012 and 2014, HD patients experienced greater declines in opioid prescriptions per person (18.2%) compared to the general US population (7.1%).

Conclusion: Opioid prescribing among HD patients declined between 2012 and 2014. However, HD patients continue receiving substantially more opioids than the general US population.

Keywords: Hemodialysis; Opioid prescribing; Trends; United States.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Renal Dialysis / adverse effects*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid