Background: To determine the relationship between clusters of back pain and joint pain and prescription opioid dispensing.
Methods: Of 11,221 middle-aged participants from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Women’s Health, clusters of back pain and joint pain from 2001 to 2013 were identified using group-based trajectory modelling. Prescription opioid dispensing from 2003 to 2015 was identified by linking the cohort to Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme dispensing data. Multinomial logistic regression was used to examine the association between back pain and joint pain clusters and dispensing of prescription opioids. The proportion of opioids dispensed in the population attributable to back and join pain was calculated.
Results: Over 12 years, 68.5 and 72.0% women reported frequent or persistent back pain and joint pain, respectively. There were three clusters (‘none or infrequent’, ‘frequent’ and ‘persistent’) for both back pain and joint pain. Those in the persistent back pain cluster had a 6.33 (95%CI 4.38-9.16) times increased risk of having > 50 opioid prescriptions and those in persistent joint pain cluster had a 6.19 (95%CI 4.18-9.16) times increased risk of having > 50 opioid prescriptions. Frequent and persistent back and joint pain clusters together explained 41.7% (95%CI 34.9-47.8%) of prescription opioid dispensing. Women in the frequent and persistent back pain and joint pain clusters were less educated and reported more depression and physical inactivity.
Conclusion: Back pain and joint pain are major contributors to opioid prescription dispensing in community-based middle-aged women. Additional approaches to reduce opioid use, targeted at those with frequent and persistent back pain and joint pain, will be important in order to reduce the use of opioids and their consequent harm in this population.