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Opioids for outpatients with cancer in their last year of life: A nationwide pharmacoepidemiological study

Siri Brelin, MD, Olav M. Fredheim, MD, PhD, Jon H. Loge, MD, PhD, Svetlana Skurtveit, PhD, Tom B. Johannesen, MD, PhD, Nina Aass, MD, PhD, Stig Ottesen, MD, PhD, Marianne J. Hjermstad, PhD

Abstract


Objective: Opioids are the main pharmacological treatment for moderate-to-severe cancer pain. Few longitudinal studies have examined the prescription prevalence (PP) of opioids to patients with cancer. The aims of the study were to examine 1) changes in the PP of opioids from 2005 to 2009 among outpatients with cancer who were in their last year of life and 2) associations between the PP of opioids and medical and sociodemographic factors.

Design: Retrospective, registry-based, national study.

Patients: This study used data on all patients with cancer who died 2005-2009, combining the following three complete nationwide registries; prescription data from the Norwegian Prescription Database, data on cancer diseases from the Cancer Registry of Norway, and sociodemographic data from Statistics Norway.

Results: The study population consisted of 44,579 adults (mean age 72 years at death, 54 percent males). The opioid PP increased from 74 to 82 percent during the study period. Oxycodone had the highest PP, and increased from 39.8 to 48.5 percent during the period, whereas the PP of morphine declined from 29.0 to 27.3 percent. The PP for fentanyl remained stable at 17 percent. The PP of opioids increased toward death with higher PP during the last 3 months of life compared to previous 3-month periods. Older patients (>60) were less likely to receive opioids, while prostate or pancreatic cancer increased the odds for opioid prescriptions (p < 0.001, Odds ratio [OR] 2.60 and OR 1.98, respectively).

Conclusion: The PP increased yearly during the study period. Use of oxycodone increased while that of morphine decreased.


Keywords


opioids, cancer pain, end of life, pharmacoepidemiology

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jom.2016.0309

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