Opioids Commonly Prescribed for Pain Relief from Osteoarthritis

PainRelief.com:?  What are the main findings?

Response: Based on register-based data on the entire population of Southern Sweden, we found that about 15% of patients with a new diagnosis of knee OA and 21% of patients with a new diagnosis of hip OA have an opioid dispensed within the first year of their diagnosis. As opioids could also be dispensed for other reasons than OA, we used a statistical model to estimate that 50-60% of these opioids dispensed were attributable to OA – and therefore inappropriate according to clinical guidelines.

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Use of opioids is common for chronic musculoskeletal conditions, such as OA – not only in North America. The results from this study highlight that many patients likely are prescribed opioids to treat their knee or hip joint pain when safer and effective alternatives are not yet exhausted.

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research should be directed towards strategies to reduce the prescribing of opioids to patients with knee and hip OA, while at the same time investigating safe treatment alternatives to opioids to treat joint pain

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: In the most recent OA treatment guideline recently released by the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI), the previous ‘conditional’ recommendation of opioids for knee and hip OA was changed to a ‘strong’ recommendation against any use of opioids for knee and hip OA pain. In the light of this revised statement the amount of inappropriate opioid use for OA is likely underestimated in our study.

Prof. Jonas Bloch Thorlund has no conflict of interest to declare.


Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2019 Oct 25. pii: S1063-4584(19)31234-8. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2019.10.004.
[Epub ahead of print]

Inappropriate opioid dispensing in patients with knee and hip osteoarthritis: a population-based cohort study.

Thorlund JB1 Turkiewicz A, Prieto-Alhambra D3 Englund M


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