Continued Opioid Prescription Fills Higher Among Cancer Survivors

Managing chronic pain after a cancer diagnosis remains a challenge.

Rates of opioid prescription use is substantially higher among cancer survivors compared with individuals without a prior cancer diagnosis, according to a recent study.

For the study, published in Cancer, investigators sought to examine the differences in opioid prescribing rates among cancer survivors versus matched controls without a history of cancer.

Enrolled in the retrospective population-wide matched cohort study were 8601 individuals residing in Ontario, Canada, who were aged 18 to 64 years and were at least 5 years passed their cancer diagnosis.

The participants were matched to 8601 controls without a prior history of cancer based on sex and year of birth. Follow-up was terminated at any indication of cancer recurrence, second malignancy, or new cancer diagnosis.

An Andersen-Gill recurrent event regression model was used to examine the association between survivorship and opioid prescription use.

The scientists looked for opioid prescriptions filled at a pharmacy dating back to 2010 for each participant.

The results of the study showed the rate of opioid prescribing was 1.22 times higher among cancer survivors than their matched controls.

Younger individuals from lower income quintiles with more comorbidities had significantly higher prescribing rates, according to the report. Sex was not associated with prescribing rates, the authors noted.

In addition, the increased rate of opioid prescribing was also observed among cancer survivors who were 10 or more years past their cancer diagnosis.

“Our research findings raise concerns about the diagnosis and management of chronic pain problems among survivors stemming from their cancer diagnosis or treatment,” said senior scientist Rinku Sutradhar, PhD. “Physicians providing primary care to cancer survivors should consider close examination of reasons for continued opioid use to differentiate chronic pain from dependency.”

More than 50,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2015. In recent years, overdoses have become the leading cause of accidental deaths.