Prescribing databases can be used to monitor trends in opioid analgesic prescribing in Australia
Article first published online: 2 APR 2013
© 2013 The Authors. ANZJPH © 2013 Public Health Association of Australia
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
Volume 37, Issue 2, pages 132–138, April 2013
How to Cite
Hollingworth, S. A., Symons, M., Khatun, M., Loveday, B., Ballantyne, S., Hall, W. D. and Najman, J. M. (2013), Prescribing databases can be used to monitor trends in opioid analgesic prescribing in Australia. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 37: 132–138. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12030
- Issue published online: 2 APR 2013
- Article first published online: 2 APR 2013
- Submitted: April 2012 Revision requested: August 2012 Accepted: February 2013
Objective: There has been increased use of prescription opioid analgesics in Australia in the past 20 years with increasing evidence of related problems. A number of data sources collect information about the dispensed prescribing for opioid medications, but little is known about the extent to which these data sources agree on levels of opioid prescribing.
Methods: In Queensland, all opioid prescriptions (S8 prescriptions) dispensed by community pharmacies must be submitted to the Drugs of Dependence Unit (DDU). This potentially comprises a ‘gold standard’ against which other data sources may be judged. There are two national data sources: the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule (PBS) for all medications subsidised by government; and an annual national survey of representative pharmacies, which assesses non-subsidised opioid prescribing. We examined the agreement between these data sources.
Results: The three data sources provided consistent estimates of use over time. The correlations between different data sources were high for most opioid analgesics. There was a substantial (60%) increase in the dispensed use of opioid analgesics and a 180% increase in the dispensed use of oxycodone over the period 2002–2009. Tramadol was the most used opioid-like medication.
Conclusions: Since 2002 different data sources reveal similar trends, namely a substantial increase in the prescribing of opioid medications. With few exceptions, the conclusions derived from using any of these data sources were similar.
Implications: Improved access to PBS data for relevant stakeholders could provide an efficient and cost-effective way to monitor use of prescription opioid analgesics.