University Of Tasmania

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Use of opioid analgesics in older Australians

Objective: To identify potential medication management issues associated with opioid use in older Australians.

Design: Retrospective cross-sectional review of the utilization of analgesics in 19,581 people who underwent a medication review in Australia between 2010 and 2012.

Subjects: Australian residents living in the community deemed at risk for adverse medication outcomes or any resident living fulltime in an aged care facility.

Methods: Patient characteristics in those taking regularly dosed opioids and not and those taking opioid doses > 120 mg and ≤ 120 mg MEQ/day were compared. Multivariable binary logistic regression was used to analyze the association between regular opioid and high dose opioid usage and key variables. Additionally, medication management issues associated with opioids were identified.

Results: Opioids were taken by 31.8% of patients, with 22.1% taking them regularly. Several major medication management issues were identified. There was suboptimal use of multimodal analgesia, particularly a low use of non-opioid analgesics, in patients taking regular opioids. There was extensive use (45%) of concurrent anxiolytics/hypnotics among those taking regular opioid analgesics. Laxative use in those prescribed opioids regularly was low (60%). Additionally, almost 12% of patients were taking doses of opioid that exceeded Australian recommendations.

Conclusions: A significant evidence to practice gap exists regarding the use of opioids amongst older Australians. These findings highlight the need for a quick reference guide to support prescribers in making appropriate decisions regarding pain management in older patients with persistent pain. This should also be combined with patient and caregiver education about the importance of regular acetaminophen to manage persistent pain.


Publication title

Pain Medicine










School of Pharmacy and Pharmacology


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.

Place of publication

United States

Rights statement

Copyright 2015 Wiley

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Other health not elsewhere classified

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