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Pain, substance use disorders and opioid analgesic prescription patterns in veterans with hepatitis C

Whitehead AJ, Dobscha SK, Morasco BJ, Ruimy S, Bussell C, Hauser P. Pain, substance use disorders and opioid analgesic prescription patterns in veterans with hepatitis C. Journal of pain and symptom management. 2008 Jul 1; 36(1):39-45.

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To examine the prevalence of pain, substance use disorder (SUD) diagnoses, and opioid analgesic prescription patterns among veterans infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV), a retrospective review of the medical records of 8,224 HCV-positive (HCV+) veterans was performed. Twenty-nine percent and 46% of HCV+ patients were prescribed opioids in the prior one and three years, respectively. Sixty-seven percent of HCV+ patients had documented pain diagnoses and 56% had SUD diagnoses. Patients with co-occurring pain and SUD were less likely to be prescribed opioids than patients with pain only (prior year: 36% vs. 43%, P < 0.001; three years: 56% vs. 60%, P < 0.01). There were no differences in numbers of early opioid prescription fills or numbers of opioid prescribers when comparing patients with co-occurring pain and SUD to patients with pain only. Veterans with co-occurring pain and opioid use disorder had fewer early opioid fills than veterans with pain only (prior year: 2.6 vs. 5.3 days, P < 0.01; three years: 6.1 vs. 13.4 days, P < 0.001). These data demonstrate that pain and SUD diagnoses were common among HCV+ patients, and that opioids were frequently prescribed. Co-occurring SUD was not associated with indicators of prescription opioid misuse.

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