Increasing Rates of Opioid Prescriptions for Gastrointestinal Diseases in the United States

Link to article at PubMed

Am J Gastroenterol. 2020 Nov 23. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001052. Online ahead of print.


INTRODUCTION: Pain control is an important management approach for many gastrointestinal conditions. Because of the ongoing opioid crisis, public health efforts have focused on limiting opioid prescriptions. This study examines national opioid prescribing patterns and factors associated with opioid prescriptions for gastrointestinal conditions.

METHODS: We conducted a repeated cross-sectional study using the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data from 2006 to 2016. The International Classification of Diseases codes were used to identify ambulatory visits with a primary gastrointestinal diagnosis. Data were weighted to calculate national estimates for opioid prescriptions for gastrointestinal disease. Joinpoint regression was used to analyze temporal trends. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine factors associated with opioid prescriptions.

RESULTS: We analyzed 12,170 visits with a primary gastrointestinal diagnosis, representing 351 million visits. The opioid prescription rate for gastrointestinal visits was 10.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] 9.0%-11.2%). Opioid prescription rates for gastrointestinal disease increased by 0.5% per year from 2006 to 2016 (P = 0.04). Prescription rates were highest for chronic pancreatitis (25.1%) and chronic liver disease (13.9%) visits. Seventy-one percent of opioid prescriptions were continuations of an existing prescription. Patient characteristics associated with continued opioid prescriptions included rural location (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.46; 95% CI 1.11-1.93), depression (aOR 1.83; 95% CI 1.33-2.53), and Medicaid insurance (aOR 1.57; 95% CI 1.15-2.13).

DISCUSSION: Opioid prescription rates for gastrointestinal disease visits increased from 2006 to 2016. Our findings suggest an inadequate response to the opioid epidemic by providers managing gastrointestinal conditions. Further clinical interventions are needed to limit opioid use for gastrointestinal disease. See the visual abstract at

PMID:33229978 | DOI:10.14309/ajg.0000000000001052

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