Trends in opioid utilisation in Australia, 2006-2015: Insights from multiple metrics

Trends in opioid utilisation in Australia, 2006-2015: Insights from multiple metrics.

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Item Type: Article
Status: Published
Official URL:
Journal or Publication Title: Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
Volume: 27
Number: 5
Page Range: pp. 504-512
Date: 2017
Divisions: Cardio Genomics
Depositing User: General Admin
Identification Number: 10.1002/pds.4369
ISSN: 10538569
Date Deposited: 03 Jan 2021 23:26

Purpose: Population-based observational studies have documented global increases in opioid analgesic use. Many studies have used a single population-adjusted metric (number of dispensings, defined daily doses [DDDs], or oral morphine equivalents [OMEs]). We combine these volume-based metrics with a measure of the number of persons dispensed opioids to gain insights into Australian trends in prescribed opioid use.

Methods: We obtained records of prescribed opioid dispensings (2006-2015) subsidised under Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. We used dispensing claims to quantify annual changes in use according to 3 volume-based metrics: DDD/1000 pop/day, OME/1000 pop/day, and dispensings/1000 pop. We estimated the number of persons dispensed at least one opioid in a given year (persons)/1000 pop using data from a 10% random sample of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme-eligible Australians.

Results: Total opioid use increased according to all metrics, especially OME/1000 pop/day (51% increase) and dispensings/1000 pop (44%). Weaker opioid use remained stable or declined; strong opioid use increased. The rate of persons accessing weaker opioids only decreased 31%, and there was a 238% increase in persons dispensed only strong opioids. Strong opioid use also increased according to dispensings/1000 pop (140%), OME/1000 pop/day (80%), and DDD/1000 pop/day (71% increase).

Conclusions: Our results suggest that the increases in total opioid use between 2006 and 2015 were predominantly driven by a growing number of people treated with strong opioids at lower medicine strengths/doses. This method can be used with or without person-level data to provide insights into factors driving changes in medicine use over time.

Keywords: Australia; defined daily dose (DDD); dispensings; opioids; oral morphine equivalents; pharmacoepidemiology.

Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Karanges, Emily A.
Buckley, Nicholas A.
Brett, Jonathan
Blanch, Bianca
Litchfield, Melisa
Degenhardt, Louisa
Pearson, Sallie-Anne
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2021 23:26

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