Patterns of Opioid Prescribing among Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries with Pain and Cardiopulmonary Conditions

J Palliat Med. 2021 Feb;24(2):195-204. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2020.0193. Epub 2020 Jul 14.


Background: Pain is common among patients with cardiopulmonary conditions; however, there are increasing concerns, but limited research, regarding use of opioids for pain in patients with noncancer conditions. Objective: To compare patterns of opioid prescribing among older adults reporting pain with cardiopulmonary conditions and/or cancer. Design: Observational study using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare Health Outcomes Survey resource linked to Medicare Part D prescription claims. Setting/Subjects: We identified patients who self-reported moderate-to-severe pain interference with daily activities. Patients were stratified by (1) self-reported history of cardiopulmonary conditions; (2) were within five years of cancer diagnosis; (3) had both conditions; or (4) neither. Measurements: We characterized opioid prescribing within 30 days of survey and one-year follow-up using logistic regression and Cox proportional hazard time-to-event analyses. Results: Of 10,516 patients with moderate-to-severe pain (1758 cardiopulmonary conditions, 3383 cancer, 2861 both, 2514 neither), 46% were aged ≥75 years, 65% were non-Hispanic white, and 10% non-Hispanic black. At survey, 1627 (15.5%) received opioids. Adjusted proportions of opioid use were lower for patients with cardiopulmonary conditions only (14%) compared with cancer only (17%; p < 0.001) and both conditions (17%; p < 0.001) but higher than patients with neither condition (13.1%; p < 0.001). There was no difference in time to initiation of opioids at follow-up among patients with cardiopulmonary conditions only, relative to cancer only (adjusted hazard ratio 1.03; 95% confidence interval 0.88-1.21). Conclusions: Opioid use is lower among patients with pain and cardiopulmonary conditions relative to patients with cancer. Findings emphasize the importance of pain assessment and management for patients with cardiopulmonary conditions.

Keywords: Medicare Health Outcomes Study; Medicare Part D; cardiopulmonary conditions; opioids; pain interference; pain treatment.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Medicare Part C*
  • Medicare Part D*
  • Pain
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • United States


  • Analgesics, Opioid