Utilization of opioid versus non-opioid analgesics in Medicaid and CHIP enrolled children with current asthma

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2021 Nov;30(11):1520-1531. doi: 10.1002/pds.5336. Epub 2021 Aug 8.


Purpose: Opioid analgesics are frequently dispensed in children despite its known risk in children with a compromised airway function. The objectives of the study were to assess the prevalence of opioid analgesic dispensing in children with current asthma and to identify patient and prescriber factors associated with the dispensing of opioid versus non-opioid analgesics.

Methods: Children <18 years of age, having current asthma and receiving an incident analgesic prescription were identified from a large Medicaid Managed Care Plan during years 2013 through 2018. Current asthma was defined as both receiving an asthma diagnosis and filling an anti-asthmatic medication during the 12-month period prior to the analgesic medication initiation. A scoring algorithm was applied to associate analgesic prescription with procedures and diagnoses according to perceived need for analgesia and time proximity.

Results: Of the 9529 children meeting the inclusion criteria, 2681 (28.1%) received an opioid prescription. Opioid analgesic dispensing was most common among children who had an outpatient surgery/procedure (29.4%), trauma (19.4%) dental procedure (18.4%), and respiratory infection (10.6%). Multivariable analysis indicated that non-Hispanic Black (AOR: 0.39[0.3-0.5]) and Hispanic (AOR: 0.51[0.4-0.6]) children were less likely to receive an opioid analgesic compared to their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Children with prior history of asthma-related emergency department visit (AOR: 1.24[1.0-1.5]) and short acting beta agonist overuse (AOR: 1.33[1.1-1.7]) were more likely to fill an opioid analgesic prescription than those without.

Conclusion: Opioid analgesics are frequently dispensed to children with asthma. A higher dispensing rate was observed among non-Hispanic White children and among those with a history of uncontrolled asthma.

Keywords: adolescent; asthma; children; opioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic* / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents*
  • Asthma* / drug therapy
  • Asthma* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents