Chronic opioid use more than doubled among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients from 2002 to 2015, according to data from a large real-world prospective cohort study.

Using the Corrona RA registry, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, identified chronic opioid users through surveys completed at study visits. “Annual prevalence of chronic opioid use was calculated among 33,739 RA patients with data on opioid use from ≥2 visits,” the authors explained, adding that “Among the 26,288 individuals who were not taking opioids at baseline, Cox proportional hazards models identified associations between patient characteristics and incident chronic opioid use.”

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Results showed that from 2002 to 2015, chronic opioid use increased from 7.4% to 16.9%. Patient characteristics that were associated with an increased risk for opioid use included severe pain (hazard ratio [HR] 2.53), antidepressant use (HR 1.79), high disease activity (HR 1.55), and high disability (HR 1.45). Conversely, Asian race was found to be associated with a reduced risk (HR 0.49).

Based on the trends observed in this study, the authors concluded that future research should focus on strategies for improving disease control, as well as pain and depression management.

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