Opioid prescriptions are rising in the U.K, with 14% of patients becoming long-term users

October 15, 2020

In the U.K., new prescriptions for multiple opioids have risen steadily in recent years, leading to concerning rates of long-term use, especially in older, socially deprived patients. Dr Meghna Jani at the University of Manchester and colleagues report these findings in a new study published October 15 in PLOS Medicine.

In the U.S., Canada and several European countries, a sharp increase in prescription opioid use for non-cancer patients has sparked concerns that a similar epidemic might occur in the U.K. To evaluate prescribing trends and understand the risk factors for long-term opioid use in the U.K., Jani and colleagues performed a study of 1,968,742 new opioid users. Their analysis showed that opioid prescriptions, especially codeine, morphine, and oxycodone, all increased substantially during the course of the study, from 2006 to 2017. Overall, 14.6% of patients with new opioid prescriptions became long-term users starting in their first year. A small percentage of physicians were "high-risk prescribers" whose patients were 3.5 times more likely to use the drugs continually. People were more likely to become long-term users if they were older, experiencing social deprivation, had a history of self-harm, suicide attempts, or substance or alcohol abuse, or suffering from fibromyalgia or rheumatological diseases.

The study's findings support the call for action for safer and more consistent opioid prescription practices in the U.K., to avoid the addiction epidemic seen in many other countries. The authors recommend that physicians should take care when prescribing high initial doses of opioids and should closely monitor patients with risk factors for long-term use. They point out that identifying general practices with abnormally high prescription rates through audit and feedback tools could help drive safer prescribing practices.

"Given the potential harms of these drugs, we think it is imperative to promote safe practices in prescribing opioids and reduce the variability we observed between in regions, practices and prescribers," said Dr. Jani. "One way to do this would be to harmonise prescribing practices across regions through future well-researched policies. The other would be developing targeted interventions in high risk groups including areas of social deprivation and for those undergoing major surgery."
-end-
Research Article

Peer reviewed; Observational study; Humans

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1003270

Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work. The work is supported by the Versus Arthritis Centre for Epidemiology, the authors' host institution (grant number 20380; WGD Principal Investigator). MJ's work was supported by an NIHR academic clinical lecturership and a Presidential Fellowship. The funders listed had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: I have read the journal's policy and the authors of this manuscript have the following competing interests: MJ is a member of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) Opioids Expert Working Group. WGD has received consultancy fees from Google and Bayer, unrelated to this work.

Citation: Jani M, Birlie Yimer B, Sheppard T, Lunt M, Dixon WG (2020) Time trends and prescribing patterns of opioid drugs in UK primary care patients with non-cancer pain: A retrospective cohort study. PLoS Med 17(10): e1003270. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003270

PLOS

Related Opioids Articles from Brightsurf:

One in 10 older dental patients inappropriately prescribed opioids
A new study by researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago and the University of Pittsburgh suggests that a significant proportion of older patients receiving opioids at dental visits also use psychotropic medications -- a potentially harmful combination.

Look beyond opioids to solve national substance use epidemic, study suggests
A new study published reveals that three-quarters of participants in an inpatient addiction intervention program at Oregon Health & Science University came into the hospital using more than one substance.

Placenta can indicate how body responds to opioids during pregnancy
Scientists at the University of Missouri have discovered possible biological markers that they hope could one day help identify the presence of an opioid use disorder during human pregnancy.

Research Finds Women Often Overprescribed Opioids After Childbirth
Excessive opioid prescriptions following childbirth may lead to higher rates of addiction within communities, according to a new report in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Women significantly more likely to be prescribed opioids, study shows
Women are significantly more likely to receive prescriptions of opioid analgesics.

Opioids for chronic non-cancer pain doubled in quarter century
A review of 24 years of global research has shown opioid prescribing doubled between 1991-2015, with demand most common for chronic conditions such as chronic lower back pain, finds University of Sydney-led research.

Cancer screening among women prescribed opioids
US women who take prescription opioids are no less likely to receive key cancer screenings when compared to women who are not prescribed opioids.

Parents: Turkey makes great leftovers -- opioids do not
Leftover prescription opioids pose big risks to kids, yet most parents keep their own and their child's unused painkillers even after they're no longer medically necessary for pain.

Co-addiction of meth and opioids hinders treatment
A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that methamphetamine use was associated with more than twice the risk for dropping out of treatment for opioid-use disorder.

Computer game may help to predict reuse of opioids
A computer betting game can help predict the likelihood that someone recovering from opioid addiction will reuse the pain-relieving drugs, a new study shows.

Read More: Opioids News and Opioids Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.