Gout Patients at Higher Risk of Chronic Opioid Use, Study Finds

Gout Patients at Higher Risk of Chronic Opioid Use, Study Finds

Patients with gout have a 36% higher likelihood of developing chronic opioid use compared to those without gout, according to a recent study presented at the ACR Convergence 2023. The research, led by Dr. Lindsay Helget of Nebraska Medical Center, aimed to explore the risk of chronic opioid use in gout patients and identify contributing factors.

The study, which analyzed national Veteran’s Health Administration data from January 1999 to January 2015, focused on patients with more than two ICD-9 codes for gout. To compare the risk, the investigators matched gout patients with individuals without gout based on birth year, sex, and Veteran’s Health Administration enrollment year.

The findings revealed that 6.9% of gout patients had chronic opioid use, compared to 3.8% of non-gout patients. Even after adjusting for various covariates, such as race, comorbidities, and body mass index, the results remained consistent. Gout patients were significantly more likely to develop chronic opioid use, with a hazard ratio of 1.36.

The study also shed light on potential gaps in care, particularly among underserved populations such as Black/African American and rural communities. It emphasized the importance of adequate urate control in reducing the risk of chronic opioid use in gout patients.

The alarming rate of opioid prescriptions for acute gout treatment was highlighted in a 2019 study, where over 28% of patients with acute gout received opioid prescriptions. This trend is concerning due to the availability of alternative medications that effectively manage acute gout without the need for opioids.

Dr. Deepan Dalal of Brown University Warren Alpert School of Medicine emphasized that opioids should not be the go-to treatment for gout flares, as there are several medications available that can address the condition effectively. The study’s findings offer an opportunity to reduce the burden of prescription opioids in gout management.

Overall, this research underscores the need for increased awareness among healthcare providers regarding the appropriate management of gout and the potential risks associated with opioid therapy. By optimizing gout treatment strategies and promoting alternatives to opioids, it is possible to mitigate the risk of chronic opioid use in patients with gout.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is gout?

Gout is a type of arthritis characterized by sudden and severe joint pain, swelling, and redness. It is caused by the accumulation of urate crystals in the joints.

Why are opioids not recommended for gout treatment?

Opioids are not the preferred treatment for gout flares because there are alternative medications available that effectively alleviate symptoms and address the underlying inflammation.

What are the potential risks of chronic opioid use?

Chronic opioid use can lead to dependence, addiction, and various adverse effects, including respiratory depression, constipation, and increased risk of overdose. It is important to use opioids judiciously and explore non-opioid treatment options whenever possible.

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