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Opioid prescribing for chronic musculoskeletal pain in UK primary care: results from a cohort analysis of the COPERS trial

Ashaye, T; Hounsome, N; Carnes, D; Taylor, SJC; Homer, K; Eldridge, S; Spencer, A; ... COPERS Study Team (ISRCTN 24426731); + view all (2018) Opioid prescribing for chronic musculoskeletal pain in UK primary care: results from a cohort analysis of the COPERS trial. BMJ Open , 8 (6) , Article e019491. 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019491. Green open access

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Abstract

OBJECTIVE: To establish the level of opioid prescribing for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain in a sample of patients from primary care and to estimate prescription costs. DESIGN: Secondary data analyses from a two-arm pragmatic randomised controlled trial (COPERS) testing the effectiveness of group self-management course and usual care against relaxation and usual care for patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain (ISRCTN 24426731). SETTING: 25 general practices and two community musculoskeletal services in the UK (London and Midlands). PARTICIPANTS: 703 chronic pain participants; 81% white, 67% female, enrolled in the COPERS trial. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Anonymised prescribing data over 12 months extracted from GP electronic records. RESULTS: Of the 703 trial participants with chronic musculoskeletal pain, 413 (59%) patients were prescribed opioids. Among those prescribed an opioid, the number of opioid prescriptions varied from 1 to 52 per year. A total of 3319 opioid prescriptions were issued over the study period, of which 53% (1768/3319) were for strong opioids (tramadol, buprenorphine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl and tapentadol). The mean number of opioid prescriptions per patient prescribed any opioid was 8.0 (SD=7.9). A third of patients on opioids were prescribed more than one type of opioid; the most frequent combinations were: codeine plus tramadol and codeine plus morphine. The cost of opioid prescriptions per patient per year varied from £3 to £4844. The average annual prescription cost was £24 (SD=29) for patients prescribed weak opioids and £174 (SD=421) for patients prescribed strong opioids. Approximately 40% of patients received >3 prescriptions of strong opioids per year, with an annual cost of £236 per person. CONCLUSIONS: Long-term prescribing of opioids for chronic musculoskeletal pain is common in primary care. For over a quarter of patients receiving strong opioids, these drugs may have been overprescribed according to national guidelines. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: ISRCTN24426731; Post-results.

Type: Article
Title: Opioid prescribing for chronic musculoskeletal pain in UK primary care: results from a cohort analysis of the COPERS trial
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-019491
Publisher version: https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/8/6/e019491
Language: English
Additional information: © Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2018. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted. This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Keywords: chronic pain, cost, opioids, prescribing, primary care
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Medicine > Inflammation
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10052437
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