BACKGROUND: Due to the US opioid epidemic, in March of 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published new guidelines for primary care providers on opioid prescribing for chronic pain. Payer coverage changes were also implemented to help modify opioid prescribing behavior. Whether these initiatives were associated with changes in opioid initiation patterns is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To assess the association between 3 of the 2016 CDC guidelines and 2 subsequent payer pharmacy coverage changes with changes in opioid initiation behavior across different provider specialties. METHODS: We conducted a real-world evidence study using claims data from OptumLabs Data Warehouse between January of 2014 and December of 2018. Subjects were continuously enrolled opioid naive patients, aged at least 18 years, who had at least 1 chronic pain diagnosis within 2 weeks before their first (first-time) opioid prescription. The study used multiple treatment period segmented regression analysis to evaluate the association, across different provider specialties, between the CDC guideline release and the payer pharmacy coverage changes with immediate change in level and overall change in the rate of first-time extended-release opioid prescriptions, firsttime opioid prescriptions at doses of at least 50 MME (morphine milligram equivalent) per day, and first-time opioid prescriptions with overlapping benzodiazepine prescription. RESULTS: The CDC guidelines were not associated with any change in the rate of first-time prescriptions of extended-release opioids. However, a January 2017 payer pharmacy coverage change was associated with a reduction over time in first-time extended-release opioid prescription rates by 22.15 in every 100,000 prescriptions (CI = -40.04 to -2.92, P = 0.013). The CDC guidelines were associated with an immediate decline in level of first-time opioid prescription at doses of at least 50 MME per day by 74.00 in every 10,000 prescriptions (CI = -124.86 to -23.13, P = 0.004) and an increased rate of decline over time by 13.64 in every 10,000 prescriptions (CI = -17.07 to -10.21, P < 0.001). These associations varied across provider types and specialties. The March 2018, payer coverage change was associated with an immediate reduction in level of first-time opioid prescriptions at doses of at least 50 MME per day across all specialties and an increased reduction over time among surgeons. The CDC guidelines were associated, respectively, with a reduction in the rate of overlapping first-time opioid prescriptions with benzodiazepines among family medicine, internal medicine, surgeons, emergency medicine providers, and providers with unknown specialty by 6.11, 5.10, 2.89, 11.43, and 9.11 in every 10,000 prescriptions monthly (CI = -9.48 to -2.73, -9.86 to -0.35, -5.40 to -0.38, -17.26 to -5.61 and -11.96 to -6.25, respectively, P < 0.001, P = 0.035, P = 0.024, P < 0.001 and P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Some specialist providers also adopted the CDC guidelines, and the response to the guidelines differed across various provider specialties. Some CDC guidelines were associated with a reduction in high-risk first-time opioid prescriptions. Payer pharmacy coverage changes reinforced the guidelines both in situations where the CDC guidelines did and did not show any association. DISCLOSURE: This research was funded by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01 HS025164; PI: Karaca-Mandic). Karaca-Mandic reports grants from the American Cancer Society and Sempre Health, along with fees from Tactile Medical and Precision Health Economics, unrelated to this study. The other authors have nothing to disclose.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (R01 HS025164; PI: Karaca-Mandic). Karaca- Mandic reports grants from the American Cancer Society and Sempre Health, along with fees from Tactile Medical and Precision Health Economics, unrelated to this study. The other authors have nothing to disclose.
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