Patterns of opioid initiation at first visits for pain in United States primary care settings


Mundkur ML, Rough K, Huybrechts KF, Levin R, Gagne JJ, Desai RJ, Patorno E, Choudhry NK, Bateman BT. Patterns of opioid initiation at first visits for pain in United States primary care settings. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2018;27 (5) :495-503.

Date Published:

2018 May


PURPOSE: The primary objective of this study was to characterize variation in patterns of opioid prescribing within primary care settings at first visits for pain, and to describe variation by condition, geography, and patient characteristics. METHODS: 2014 healthcare utilization data from Optum's Clinformatics™ DataMart were used to evaluate individuals 18 years or older with an initial presentation to primary care for 1 of 10 common pain conditions. The main outcomes assessed were (1) the proportion of first visits for pain associated with an opioid prescription fill and (2) the proportion of opioid prescriptions with >7 days' supply. RESULTS: We identified 205 560 individuals who met inclusion criteria; 9.1% of all visits were associated with an opioid fill, ranging from 4.1% (headache) to 28.2% (dental pain). Approximately half (46%) of all opioid prescriptions supplied more than 7 days, and 10% of prescriptions supplied ≥30 days. We observed a 4-fold variation in rates of opioid initiation by state, with highest rates of prescribing in Alabama (16.6%) and lowest rates in New York (3.7%). CONCLUSIONS: In 2014, nearly half of all patients filling opioid prescriptions received more than 7 days' of opioids in an initial prescription. Policies limiting initial supplies have the potential to substantially impact opioid prescribing in the primary care setting.