Assessing the impact of a national clinical guideline for the management of chronic pain on opioid prescribing rates: a controlled interrupted time series analysis

Harry L. Hebert (Lead / Corresponding author), Daniel R. Morales, Nicola Torrance, Blair H. Smith, Lesley A. Colvin

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Abstract

Background : Opioids can be effective analgesics, but long-term use may be associated with harms. In 2013, the first national, comprehensive, evidence-based pain management guideline was published, from the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN 136: Management of Chronic Pain) with key recommendations on analgesic prescribing. This study aimed to examine the potential impact on national opioid prescribing rates in Scotland.

Methods: Trends in national and regional community opioid prescribing data for Scotland were analysed from quarter one (Q1) 2005 to Q2 2020. Interrupted time series regression examined the association of SIGN 136 publication with prescribing rates for opioid-containing drugs. Gabapentinoid prescribing was used as a comparison drug.

Results: After a positive prescribing trend pre-publication, the timing of SIGN 136 publication was associated with a negative change in trend of opioid prescribing rates (-2.82 items per 1,000 population per quarter [PTPPQ]; P<0.01). By Q2 2020, the relative reduction in opioid prescribing rate was -20.67% (95% CI: -23.67, -17.77). This persisted after correcting for gabapentinoid prescribing and was mainly driven by reduction in weak opioids, whereas strong opioid prescribing rates continued to rise. Gabapentinoid prescribing showed a significant rise in level (8.00 items per 1,000 population; P=0.01) and trend (0.27 items PTPPQ; P=0.01) following SIGN 136 publication.

Conclusions: Publication of SIGN 136 was associated with a reduction in opioid prescribing rates. This suggests that changes in clinical policy through evidence-based national clinical guidelines may affect community opioid prescribing, though this may be partially replaced by gabapentinoids, and other factors may also contribute.
Original languageEnglish
Article number77
Number of pages12
JournalImplementation Science
Volume17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2022

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Clinical guideline
  • Interrupted time series analysis
  • Opioids
  • Prescribing rates

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