HEALINE

Persistent Opioid Use High in Head, Neck Cancer Patients

Opioid use before treatment, tobacco use are risk factors for ongoing opioid use

FRIDAY, Jan. 11, 2019 (Pharmacist's Briefing) -- Persistent opioid use at three and six months remains high among patients undergoing treatment for head and neck squamous cell cancer, according to a study recently published in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Jessica D. McDermott, M.D., from the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine in Aurora, and colleagues used data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results-Medicare database (2008 to 2011) to identify 976 nondistant metastatic oral cavity and oropharynx patients undergoing treatment.

The researchers found that 83.1 percent of patients received an opioid prescription during the treatment period, while 15.4 and 7.0 percent of patients had continued opioid prescriptions at three and six months, respectively. There was an association between prescriptions prior to treatment and opioid use during treatment (odds ratio, 3.28). Tobacco use (odds ratios, 2.23 and 3.84) and opioids prescribed prior to treatment (odds ratios, 3.84 and 3.56) were risk factors associated with continued opioid use at three and six months, respectively. Ongoing use at three and six months was least likely if oxycodone was prescribed as the first opioid (odds ratios, 0.33 and 0.26, respectively).

"If a patient needed opioids for pain, I wouldn't keep them away, but especially if they have risk factors, I might counsel them more about the risks of addiction and misuse, and keep an eye on it," McDermott said in a statement.

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