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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Michigan: Nearly 1 in 3 Patients with Lupus Use Prescription Opioids for Pain

Although there is little evidence that opioids effectively reduce pain from rheumatic diseases, a new study led by the University of Michigan finds nearly one in three patients with lupus uses prescription opioids, often lasting longer than a year.

“Rheumatic diseases, such as lupus, are a leading cause of chronic pain,” says Dr. Emily Somers, an associate professor of rheumatology, environmental health sciences and obstetrics and gynecology at Michigan Medicine and the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Dr. Somers is the lead author on a new study published in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that examined prescription opioid use among adult patients with lupus in southeast Michigan.

“With the current opioid epidemic and evolving guidance related to opioid prescribing, we wanted to determine current levels of prescription opioid use in lupus,” says Dr. Somers.

The research team examined data from the Michigan Lupus Epidemiology & Surveillance (MILES) Program, a cohort of more than 650 patients with and without lupus from southeast Michigan.

In the study of patients who shared a similar demographic background — 462 adults with lupus and 192 adults without lupus 31 percent of patients with lupus were using prescription opioids during the study period compared to 8 percent of adults without the condition.

In addition, 68 percent of the patients with lupus using prescription opioids were using them for more than one year, and 22 percent were on two or more different opioid prescriptions.

“These findings were alarming because one in three patients with lupus were using a prescription opioid, with the majority of those for longer than a year, even though opioids may not be providing benefits and have harmful side effects,” Dr. Somers says.

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