Relationship between early prescription dispensing patterns and work disability in a cohort of low back pain workers' compensation claimants: a historical cohort study

Publication type
Journal article
Authors
Carnide N Hogg-Johnson S Koehoorn M Furlan AD Cote P
Date published
2019 May 15
Journal
Occupational and Environmental Medicine
Pages
[Epub ahead of print]
Open Access?
Yes
Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To examine and compare whether dispensing of prescription opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and skeletal muscle relaxants (SMRs) within 8 weeks after a work-related low back pain (LBP) injury is associated with work disability. METHODS: A historical cohort study of 55 571 workers' compensation claimants with LBP claims in British Columbia from 1998 to 2009 was conducted using linked compensation, dispensing and healthcare data. Four exposures were constructed to estimate the effect on receipt of benefits and days on benefits 1 year after injury: drug class(es) dispensed, days' supply, strength of opioids dispensed and average daily morphine-equivalent dose. RESULTS: Compared with claimants receiving NSAIDs and/or SMRs, the incidence rate ratio (IRR) of days on benefits was 1.09 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.14) for claimants dispensed opioids only and 1.26 (95% CI 1.22 to 1.30) for claimants dispensed opioids with NSAIDs and/or SMRs. Compared with weak opioids only, the IRR for claimants dispensed strong opioids only or strong and weak opioids combined was 1.21 (95% CI 1.12 to 1.30) and 1.29 (95% CI 1.20 to 1.39), respectively. The incident rate of days on benefits associated with each 7-day increase in days supplied of opioids, NSAIDs and SMRs was 10%, 4% and 3%, respectively. Similar results were seen for receipt of benefits, though effect sizes were larger. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest provision of early opioids leads to prolonged work disability compared with NSAIDs and SMRs, though longer supplies of all drug classes are also associated with work disability. Residual confounding likely partially explains the findings. Research is needed that accounts for prescriber, system and workplace factors