Factors associated with the prescribing of high-dose opioids in primary care: A systematic review and meta-Analysis
Richards GC., Mahtani KR., Muthee TB., Devito NJ., Koshiaris C., Aronson JK., Goldacre B., Heneghan CJ.
© 2020 The Author(s). Background: The risks of harms from opioids increase substantially at high doses, and high-dose prescribing has increased in primary care. However, little is known about what leads to high-dose prescribing, and studies exploring this have not been synthesized. We, therefore, systematically synthesized factors associated with the prescribing of high-dose opioids in primary care. Methods: We conducted a systematic review of observational studies in high-income countries that used patient-level primary care data and explored any factor(s) in people for whom opioids were prescribed, stratified by oral morphine equivalents (OME). We defined high doses as ≥ 90 OME mg/day. We searched MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, reference lists, forward citations, and conference proceedings from database inception to 5 April 2019. Two investigators independently screened studies, extracted data, and appraised the quality of included studies using the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies. We pooled data on factors using random effects meta-Analyses and reported relative risks (RR) or mean differences with 95% confidence intervals (CI) where appropriate. We also performed a number needed to harm (NNTH) calculation on factors when applicable. Results: We included six studies with a total of 4,248,119 participants taking opioids, of whom 3.64% (n = 154,749) were taking high doses. The majority of included studies (n = 4) were conducted in the USA, one in Australia and one in the UK. The largest study (n = 4,046,275) was from the USA. Included studies were graded as having fair to good quality evidence. The co-prescription of benzodiazepines (RR 3.27, 95% CI 1.32 to 8.13, I 2 = 99.9%), depression (RR 1.38, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.51, I 2 = 0%), emergency department visits (RR 1.53, 95% CI 1.46 to 1.61, I 2 = 0%, NNTH 15, 95% CI 12 to 20), unemployment (RR 1.44, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.63, I 2 = 0%), and male gender (RR 1.21, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.28, I 2 = 78.6%) were significantly associated with the prescribing of high-dose opioids in primary care. Conclusions: High doses of opioids are associated with greater risks of harms. Associated factors such as the co-prescription of benzodiazepines and depression identify priority areas that should be considered when selecting, identifying, and managing people taking high-dose opioids in primary care. Coordinated strategies and services that promote the safe prescribing of opioids are needed. Study registration: PROSPERO, CRD42018088057