Objective: It has been established that most patients prescribed opioids after minor surgery have tablets left over, better understanding the variation in opioid prescribing and variation in dosage of the prescription could guide efforts to reduce prescribing. This study describes the state-level variation in opioid prescribing after a knee arthroscopy among opioid-naïve patients.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Commercial insurance claims data.
Participants: 98 623 individual across the USA with commercial insurance who were opioid-naïve and had a knee arthroscopy between 2015 and 2019.
Exposure: Patients who filled an opioid prescription within 3 days of a knee arthroscopy.
Outcome measures: Opioid prescriptions were measured as a pharmacy claim for filling an opioid within 3 days of a knee arthroscopy. We measured the patient and state-level opioid prescribing rate, tablet count, morphine milligram equivalent dose per prescription and risk-adjusted predicted opioid quantity.
Results: Overall, 72% of patients filled an opioid prescription with a median tablet count of 40 and median morphine milligram equivalent of 250. Patients with an invasive procedure (27.9% vs 22.4%; p<0.001), higher education level (p<0.001) and fewer comorbidities (0.9 vs 1.2, p<0.001) had higher rates of opioid prescribing. The prescribing rate in the highest state, Nebraska (85%), was double the prescribing rate in the lowest state, South Dakota (40%). Comparing the casemix adjusted expected prescribing rate to the observed prescribing rate displayed that 18 states had observed prescribing rates that were higher than their expected prescribing rates.
Conclusion: Wide variation in the likelihood of receiving a prescription, depending on state of residence, was observed. The dosages prescribed were high and have been associated with transition to long-term use. These findings suggest that there is substantial opportunity for the development of guidelines to reduce variability in opioid prescribing for this common ambulatory procedure.
Keywords: health policy; knee; pain management; public health.