HealthDay News — From 2001 to 2016 there was an increase in the number and percentage of opioid-related deaths; in addition, most patients receiving opioids receive immediate-release (IR) formulations, according to 2 studies published online June 1 in JAMA Network Open.

Tara Gomes, PhD, from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, and colleagues examined the burden of opioid-related mortality over time across the United States. The researchers observed a 345% increase in the number of opioid-related deaths in the United States between 2001 and 2016, from 33.3 to 130.7 deaths per million population. Men accounted for 67.5% of all opioid-related deaths by 2016. From 2001 to 2016 there was a 292% increase in the percentage of deaths attributable to opioids, from 0.4 to 1.5% of deaths. The burden was highest among 24- to 35-year-olds; 20% of deaths in this age group were due to opioids in 2016.

Catherine S. Hwang, MSPH, from the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study of 169 million individuals receiving opioid analgesics from across 90% of outpatient pharmacies in the United States from Jan. 1, 2003, to Dec. 31, 2014. The researchers found that 168,315,458 patients filled IR formulations and 10,216,570 filled extended-release/long-acting (ER/LA) formulations. A small and decreasing proportion of patients with long-term IR opioid analgesic therapy added (3.8 to 1.8%) or switched (1.0 to 0.5%) to an ER/LA formulation from 2003 to 2014.

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“Most patients receiving opioid analgesics, whether for short or extended periods, use IR formulations,” Hwang and colleagues write.

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Authors from both studies and the editorial disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies.

Abstract/Full Text – Gomes
Abstract/Full Text – Hwang