A new analysis indicates opioid medications are being prescribed to dialysis patients more frequently and for longer periods of time than in the general Medicare population, and often at high doses that are not recommended for patients with kidney failure. The study, which appears in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), also found links between higher opioid drug prescription and increased risks of dialysis discontinuation, hospitalization, and early death.
Paul Kimmel, MD, MACP, FASN, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and his colleagues assessed opioid prescriptions in U.S. patients undergoing maintenance dialysis who had Medicare as their primary insurer. The team achieved this by analyzing 2006-2010 United States Renal Data System files, including those related to Medicare Part D.
More than one-quarter of opioid users received doses exceeding recommendations. Also, after adjusting for other factors, dialysis patients who received opioid medications were at significantly higher risk of early death, discontinuation of dialysis, and the need for hospitalization, compared with those who did not receive opioids. These adverse events were most common in those who received higher doses.