HealthDay News — Opioid prescribing declined for both chronic noncancer pain (CNCP) and cancer pain between 2012 and 2019, according to a study published online August 10 in PLOS ONE.

Sachini Bandara, PhD, from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues examined trends in opioid and nonopioid treatment among privately insured adults with CNCP or cancer. Administrative claims data from the IBM MarketScan Research Databases (2012 to 2019) were used to identify individuals with a CNCP diagnosis (arthritis, headache, low back pain, and/or neuropathic pain) as well as individuals with a cancer diagnosis in a calendar year.

The researchers found that the proportion of patients who received any opioid decreased across both groups (CNCP, 49.7 to 30.5%; cancer, 86.0 to 78.7%). Receipt of nonopioid pain medication remained unchanged for individuals with CNCP (66.7 to 66.4%) and increased for individuals with cancer (74.4 to 78.8%). Nonpharmacologic therapy use increased among individuals with CNCP (62.4 to 66.1%). For those prescribed opioids, decreases were observed in the receipt of at least one prescription with greater than 90 morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) per day (CNCP, 13.9 to 4.9%; cancer, 26.2 to 7.6%), the receipt of at least one prescription with more than 7 days of supply (CNCP, 56.3 to 30.7%; cancer, 47.5 to 22.7%), mean number of opioid prescriptions (CNCP, 5.2 to 3.9; cancer, 4.0 to 2.7), and mean MMEs per day (CNCP, 49.9 to 38.0; cancer, 62.4 to 44.7).

“These findings highlight the need to better understand how declines in prescribing are influencing the management of pain among these patient populations, particularly as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently updating opioid prescribing guidelines for chronic pain,” the authors added in a statement.

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