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Do transdermal opioids reduce healthcare use in an Australian rural pain population? A comparison with oral opioids

John S. Henshaw, MBBS, MMed, FANZCA, FFPMANZCA

Abstract


Objective: To determine whether transdermal (TD) opioids reduce healthcare contacts when compared with oral opioids in a rural population with chronic noncancer pain (CNCP).
Design: An observational longitudinal study to measure the changes in selfreported healthcare use by the route of opioid administration over time (monthly for 1 year). Subjects were opioid-treated CNCP patients from North West Tasmania. The subjects completed the monthly datasheets by recording all healthcare contacts and the routes of opioid administration. The outcome measures of mean monthly healthcare contacts (MHCs) by the routes of opioid administration were analyzed using generalized estimating equations with robust standard errors.
Results: The details of 10,564 healthcare contacts from 198 subjects were obtained during the study. General practitioner (GP) mean MHCs were 2.01 (95% confidence intervals [CI] = 1.58-2.45) for oral opioids and significantly (p = 0.02) lower by 0.38 (95% CI = −0.70 to −0.05) contacts for TD opioids. Pharmacy mean MHCs were 2.44 (95% CI = 1.88-3.00) for oral opioids and unchanged (p = 0.86) by −0.04 (95% CI = −0.44-0.37) for TD opioids. Total mean MHCs with oral opioid use were 5.98 (95% CI = 4.93-7.03). With TD opioid use, this was nonsignificantly lower (p = 0.12) by 0.62 (95% CI = −1.40-0.15) contacts.
Conclusions: The use of TD opioid preparations, with their prolonged analgesic effect, may reduce total healthcare activity and significantly reduce GP contact. This may particularly benefit a rural population where there is a relative shortage of doctors.


Keywords


chronic noncancer pain, transdermal opioids, healthcare utilization, generalized estimating equations

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jom.2011.0056

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