Opioid Rx for Chronic Abdominal Pain Up Over Last Decade

Most commonly prescribed to 25- to 40-year-olds; least commonly to uninsured, African-Americans

TUESDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of opioid prescriptions for chronic abdominal pain more than doubled between 1997 and 2008 in the United States, with prescriptions most common for patients aged 25 to 40 years, according to a study published in the December issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

Spencer D. Dorn, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, and colleagues investigated national trends in opioid use for chronic abdominal pain, and determined the factors associated with opioid prescribing for abdominal pain. Reason-for-visit codes from two National Care Surveys (1997 to 2008) were used to identify adults who visited outpatient clinics for chronic abdominal pain. Data were weighted to generate estimates over time for opioid prescriptions. Factors associated with opioid use were identified through logistic regression analyses, after adjustment for complex survey design.

The investigators found that there was a significant, consistent decrease in chronic abdominal pain-related outpatient clinic visits over time, from an estimated 14.8 million visits in 1997-1999 to 12.2 million visits in 2006-2008 (1,863 visits per 100,000 population). There was a significant increase in the adjusted prevalence of visits where opioids were prescribed, from 5.9 percent in 1997-1999 to 12.2 percent in 2006-2008. Opioids were most commonly prescribed to individuals aged 25 to 40 years (odds ratio [OR], 4.6), and prescriptions were least common for uninsured and African-American individuals (OR, 0.1 and 0.3, respectively).

"Between 1997 and 2008, the prevalence of opioid prescriptions for chronic abdominal pain more than doubled," the authors write.

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