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Opioid analgesics prescription in people with and without cancer in France

Asmaa Janah, PhD Candidate, Anne-Déborah Bouhnik, PhD, Sébastien Cortaredona, MSc, Julien Mancini, MD, PhD, Philippe Jean Bousquet, MD, PhD, Patrick Peretti-Watel, PhD, Marc-Karim Bendiane, MSc


Introduction and Objectives: According to World Health Organization recommendations, opioids prescription is a key aspect of improvement in cancer pain relief. However, studies on opioids prescription in France are scarce. This study aimed principally to investigate the impact of cancer on opioids prescription and then to identify factors associated with this prescription, focusing on patients' characteristics impact.

Methods: We matched the following two cohorts: cancer survivors (N = 6,760) and individuals without cancer (N = 6,760). Using French health insurance databases, we compared the prevalence of prescribed opioids in 2009-2015 in people with and without cancer and we applied afterwards conditional Poisson regressions to estimate relative risks for monthly opioids prescription. For cancer survivors only (N = 3,055), multivariate negative binomial regressions were performed to identify factors associated with opioids prescription.

Results: Cancer was associated with a higher analgesics prescription in the cancer population. While Step II and III opioids prescription decreased over time, the latter remained marginal and tended to stabilize. Older people were most adversely affected by underprescription of opioids, especially Step III opioids. Furthermore, although the matched case/control study suggested that men were prescribed opioids more often than women, multivariate analysis did not support this finding.

Conclusion: The inconsistency between our findings and existing literature regarding both opioids prescription trends and postdiagnosis pain chronicity in cancer survivors over the medium term suggests possible changes in pain perception and the evolution of cancer pain management strategies. Further research should explore these hypotheses and investigate patient characteristics' effect in cancer pain management.


cancer, survivors, pain, WHO analgesic ladder, opioid analgesics, health insurance reimbursement

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