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Papers of the Week

Papers: 5 Aug 2023 - 11 Aug 2023

Clinical, Geriatric

Human Studies, Neurobiology, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2023 Aug 04



Comparative effectiveness of pain control between opioids and gabapentinoids in older patients with chronic pain.


Kim E, Raji MA, Westra J, Wilkes D, Kuo YF


Gabapentinoid (GABA) prescribing has substantially increased while opioid prescribing has decreased since the 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines restricted opioid prescribing for chronic pain. The shift to GABA assumes equal analgesic effectiveness to opioids, but no comparative analgesic effectiveness data exist to support this assumption. We compared GABA to opioids by assessing changes in pain interfering with activities (activity-limiting pain) over time in patients with chronic pain. We used 2017 to 2019 data from a 20% national sample of Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with chronic pain who initiated a GABA or opioid prescription for ≥30 continuous days and received home health care in the study year. The main outcome was the difference in reduction in pain score from pre- to post-prescription assessments between the 2 groups. Within a 60-day window before-and-after drug initiation, our sample comprised 3208 GABA users and 2846 opioid users. Reduction in post-prescription scores of pain-related interference with activities to less-than-daily pain was 48.1% in the GABA group and 41.7% in the opioid group; this remained significant (odds ratio = 1.29, 95% confidence interval: 1.17-1.43, P < 0.0001) after adjustment for patient demographics and comorbidities. The adjusted difference in reduced pain-related interference score between the 2 groups was -0.10 points on a 0 to 4 scale (P = 0.01). Gabapentinoid use had greater odds of less-than-daily pain post-prescription, in a dose-dependent manner. Thus, GABA use was associated with a larger reduction in chronic pain than opioids, with a larger effect at higher GABA dosage. Future research is needed on functional outcomes in patients with chronic pain prescribed GABA or opioids.