Advertisement

Opioid use for osteoarthritis varies widely state-to-state, study shows

Researchers say prescribing practices appear to vary regionally, suggesting that efforts against the opioid epidemic and to make use safer should be tailored to where patients are.

By
Tauren Dyson
Despite the widespread use of opioid drugs, some research has shown they don't work much better than placebo to manage pain related to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and sciatica. Photo by whitesession/Pixabay
Despite the widespread use of opioid drugs, some research has shown they don't work much better than placebo to manage pain related to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and sciatica. Photo by whitesession/Pixabay

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- The rate of opioid use in older patients with osteoarthritis varies wildly state-to-state, new research says, suggesting regional approaches are needed to make use safer.

More than 26 percent of osteoarthritis patients in Alabama have become long-term opioid users compared to only 8.9 percent of patients in Minnesota, according to a study published Monday in Arthritis & Rheumatology.

Advertisement

The researchers found that one in six patients took prescription opioids for longer than 90 days to manage pain in the year leading up to total joint replacement. The average patient used opioids for about seven months.

Also, 20 percent of the long-term users took an average daily dose of 50 morphine milligram equivalents, which experts say can lead to high risk of opioid-related damage.

RELATED Study: Drug company payments to doctors may increase opioid prescribing

The frequency of access for a patient with osteoarthritis to doctors didn't seem to contribute to the problem of long-term opioid use.

In fact, the difference in long-term use was 1.4 percent within the states with the highest and lowest density of primary care providers, the study says.

Despite the widespread use of these drugs, some research has shown that opioids don't work much better than placebo in managing pain related to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and sciatica.

RELATED Heavy marketing of opioid drugs linked to overdose deaths

"These findings suggest that regional prescribing practices are key determinants of prescription opioid use in chronic pain patients, and geographically targeted dissemination strategies for safe opioid prescribing guidelines may be required to address the high use observed in certain states," Dr. Rishi Desai, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in a press release.

RELATED CDC: Fatal drug overdoses soaring among middle-aged women

Latest Headlines