A new study found long-term use of transdermal opioid patches to be twice as common among Alzheimer’s disease patients as it is for those without Alzheimer’s disease, additionally, of those who initiate opioid use, one-third become long-term users. 

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, who used data from the Finnish nationwide registers to identify 62,074 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease during 2005-2011. These patients were matched with a comparison person of the same age, sex and region of residence who did not have an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis. 

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The authors aimed to study the prevalence of long-term (at least 180 days) use of opioids for non-malignant pain and related factors among community-dwelling persons with Alzheimer’s disease and to compare the prevalence to a matched group without Alzheimer’s disease.  

They found that 7.2% of those with Alzheimer’s disease used opioids for non-cancer pain long-term vs. 8.7% of those without Alzheimer’s disease.

Among patients who initiated opioid use, however, long-term use was more prevalent in those with Alzheimer’s disease vs. those without (34.2% vs. 32.3%; P=0.0004). Transdermal opioids use was more than double in opioid users with Alzheimer’s vs. those without (13.2% vs. 5.5%). Among those with Alzheimer’s disease, opioid use was “strongly associated” with transdermal opioids. 

For more information visit journals.lww.com