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Do declining opioid prescribing trends hurt sarcoma patients?

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Although opioid prescribing rates are declining because of the drug overdose crisis, there has been a lack of tailoring to fit the pain management needs of patients undergoing cancer treatment, according to a study.

From 2008-2018, patients (n = 324,789) with breast, colorectal, head and neck, or sarcoma, who were undergoing treatment were included. Subgroups of patients with substance use disorder or mental health diagnoses were also analyzed to determine opioid prescription decline.

During the study timeframe, there was a 32.5% decline in the rate of ≥1 opioid fill per quarter, and a 37.6% decline in the daily dose among patients receiving opioids.

Substance use disorder and mental health diagnoses did not appear to impact the rate of decline.

The authors concluded that more research is needed on the effect of opioid-related harms and pain management.

Townsend TN, Salz T, Haffajee RL, et al. Has declining opioid dispensing to cancer patients been tailored to risk of opioid harms? J Pain Symptom Manage. 2021;S0885-3924(21)00559-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2021.09.014. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34656655.