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Epidemiology of opioid pharmacy claims in the United States

Rachel E. Williams, PhD, MS, Timothy J. Sampson, BS, Linda Kalilani, MBBS, PhD, John I. Wurzelmann, MD, MPH, Stephen W. Janning, PharmD


Objective: To describe opioid pharmacy claims patterns in the United States among an insured population.
Design: Information was obtained from the US insurance claims database, IMS Lifelink™, between 1997 and 2002. Descriptive statistics of opioid claims patterns were described with stratification by gender, age, and year of use.
Results: The prevalence of insured people with opioid claims increased from 17.1 percent in 1997 to 18.4 percent in 2002. Among people with an opioid claim, 24 percent had ≥30 days and 10 percent had ≥90 days of days supplied based on the insurance claims. Prevalence varied by type of opioid; 56 percent of people with a claim received propoxyphene, 43 percent received codeine, 23 percent received oxycodone, and 17 percent received hydrocodone. Sustained-release opioids were found among 6 percent of those with a claim. With respect to the dose of opioids in the pharmacy claims (expressed as morphine equivalent total daily dose), 71 percent had claims for <50 mg, 55 percent had claims for 50-99 mg, and 24 percent had claims for ≥100 mg. Women, individuals with cancer, and older patients had significantly more pharmacy claims as well as claims for higher doses of opioids (p < 0.05). Internal medicine and family practice specialists were responsible for 22.4 percent and 20.9 percent of all opioid claims.
Conclusions: Opioid pharmacy claims increased slightly over time. Older patients, women and patients with a cancer diagnosis had significantly more opioid claims and claims for higher doses than the younger patients, men, and those without cancer.


opioid, epidemiology, pharmacy, insurance claims

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