Immediate-release (IR) hydrocodone/acetaminophen is the most prescribed opioid in the United States; however, patterns of use, including long-term treatment and dose, are not well described. Duration of use, including the percentage of patients on long-term treatment (>90 days of continuous use), was assessed for patients newly prescribed IR hydrocodone/acetaminophen compared to other opioid analgesics in a national commercial insurance database (January 2008-September 2013). Though only a small percentage of IR hydrocodone/acetaminophen patients continued treatment long-term (1.7%), the number was large (104,839) and was nearly 5 times the number receiving extended-release (ER) morphine (n = 22,338) and nearly 4 times the number receiving ER oxycodone (n = 26,946) long-term. Using a less conservative allowable gap in treatment increased the number of patients meeting the criteria for long-term use (approximately 160,000 for IR hydrocodone/acetaminophen vs 20 and ≤60 mg/d (n = 56,220, 53.6%) in month 4; 5.5% (n = 5,743) received doses >60 mg/d. Moreover, approximately 15% of IR hydrocodone/acetaminophen patients (n > 900,000) were prescribed total daily acetaminophen doses exceeding 4 g (the limit recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration) at their initial IR hydrocodone/acetaminophen prescription or any time during therapy. Perspective Although most patients were prescribed IR hydrocodone/acetaminophen for acute pain, the number of patients prescribed long-term therapy exceeds the number of patients prescribed ER opioids. It is important to consider the benefits and risks inherent with long-term opioid therapy, whether with IR or ER opioids, to ensure safe use of these products.
- immediate-release opioids
- long-term opioid therapy
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
- Clinical Neurology