A new study in the Journal of Women’s Health has found that younger women are less likely to experience pain relief with long-term use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain compared to men of the same age.
The CONSORT (Consortium to Study Opioid Risks and Trends) study recruited members of Group Health (GH) in Washington State and in Kaiser Permanente of Northern California (KPNC) who were 21–80 years of age and had filled an opioid prescription in the 30 days prior to the selection date, and had filled at least 10 prescriptions for opioids and/or received at least 120 days’ supply of an opioid in the year prior to the sample selection date. A total of 2,163 health plan members were asked questions on pain presence, intensity of pain, and pain-related activity interference.
Approximately 20% of chronic opioid therapy (COT) patients had favorable global pain status, a little more than 25% had intermediate status, and over half had unfavorable status. Women under the age of 65 reported worse pain and functional status compared to men of comparable age. In patients aged 65–80, pain and functional status indicators among men and women were generally similar, with slightly over half of both men and women reporting unfavorable pain status.
The authors suggest that age and/or sex could play a role in opioid pharmacokinetics (PK) or pharmacodynamics (PD), leading younger women to have less success in treatment for pain with opioids. This may indicate that the risks associated with these medications, such as reduced fertility, could outweigh the benefits for this population.
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