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Utilization of pain medications and its effect on quality of life, health care utilization and associated costs in individuals with chronic back pain

Authors Desai R, Hong YR, Huo J

Received 11 September 2018

Accepted for publication 17 December 2018

Published 1 February 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 557—569


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael Schatman

Raj Desai, Young Rock Hong, Jinhai Huo

Department of Health Services Research, Management and Policy, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32610, USA

Purpose: Pain medications are widely prescribed to treat chronic back pain (CBP). However, the effect of using pain medications on individuals with CBP has received very little attention.
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the patterns of pharmacological treatment in the population with CBP and assess its impact on quality of life, health care utilization and associated costs in USA.
Patients and methods: Retrospective, cross-sectional data obtained from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), from 2011 to 2015, were utilized for this study. Pharmacological treatment for CBP was categorized into three mutually exclusive categories: 1) opioids only, 2) nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) only, 3) opioids and NSAIDs (combination). The effect of the use of these treatments was also evaluated.
Results: A total of 5,203 individuals with CBP were identified. Of these, 2,568 (49.4%) utilized opioids only, 1,448 (27.8%) utilized NSAIDs only and 1,187 (22.8%) utilized both pain medications. Lower health-related quality-of-life scores on both the Short Form Health Survey-12 version 2 (SF-12v2) components (mental component summary score: 44.42 vs 46.67, P<0.001; physical component summary score: 35.34 vs 40.11, P<0.001) were observed for the opioid-only group compared to the NSAID-only group. In addition, individuals utilizing opioids only had greater utilization of inpatient services, office-based services, outpatient services and emergency room visits along with higher related health care costs.
Conclusion: Future researchers need to investigate the long-term risks and benefits of opioids, and policy makers should evaluate the prescribing guidelines to aim for a more patient-centered care.

Keywords: opioids, NSAIDs, quality of life, health care resource utilization, cost

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