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Analgesic Prescribing in Patients with Inflammatory Arthritis in England: Observational Studies in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink

Scott, Ian C; Jordan, Kelvin P; Twohig, Helen; Whittle, Rebecca; Muller, Sara; Hider, Samantha L; Mallen, Christian D; Bailey, James


Rebecca Whittle


Despite little evidence that analgesics are effective in inflammatory arthritis (IA), studies report substantial opioid prescribing. The extent this applies to other analgesics is uncertain. We undertook a comprehensive evaluation of analgesic prescribing in patients with IA in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink Aurum to evaluate this. From 2004 to 2020, cross-sectional analyses evaluated analgesic prescription annual prevalence in RA, PsA and axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), stratified by age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation and geography. Joinpoint regression evaluated temporal prescribing trends. Cohort studies determined prognostic factors at diagnosis for chronic analgesic prescriptions using Cox proportional hazards models. Analgesic prescribing declined over time but remained common: 2004 and 2020 IA prescription prevalence was 84.2/100 person-years (PY) (95% CI 83.9, 84.5) and 64.5/100 PY (64.2, 64.8), respectively. In 2004, NSAIDs were most prescribed (56.1/100 PY; 55.8, 56.5), falling over time. Opioids were most prescribed in 2020 (39.0/100 PY; 38.7, 39.2). Gabapentinoid prescribing increased: 2004 prevalence 1.1/100 PY (1.0, 1.2); 2020 prevalence 9.9/100 PY (9.7, 10.0). Most opioid prescriptions were chronic (2020 prevalence 23.4/100 PY [23.2, 23.6]). Non-NSAID analgesic prescribing was commoner in RA, older people, females and deprived areas/northern England. Conversely, NSAID prescribing was commoner in axSpA/males, varying little by deprivation/geography. Peri-diagnosis was high-risk for starting chronic opioid/NSAID prescriptions. Prognostic factors for chronic opioid/gabapentinoid and NSAID prescriptions differed, with NSAIDs having no consistently significant association with deprivation (unlike opioids/gabapentinoids). IA analgesic prescribing of all classes is widespread. This is neither evidence-based nor in line with guidelines. Peri-diagnosis is an opportune moment to reduce chronic analgesic prescribing. [Abstract copyright: © The Author(s) 2023. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the British Society for Rheumatology.]

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 18, 2023
Online Publication Date Oct 12, 2023
Publication Date Oct 12, 2023
Deposit Date Oct 3, 2023
Journal Rheumatology (Oxford, England)
Print ISSN 1462-0324
Electronic ISSN 1462-0332
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Article Number kead463
Keywords PsA, analgesic, pain, RA, axial spondyloarthritis