Purpose: To determine the pervasiveness of opioid prescribing for adolescents with headache and patient and provider characteristics associated with likelihood of opioid prescribing.
Methods: This observational cohort analysis used commercial medical and pharmacy claims between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008. Included were adolescents (13-17 years of age) with newly diagnosed headache, >= 2 distinct claims for headache, and >= 12 months health plan eligibility preindex and postindex. Adolescents with a trauma diagnosis at any point were excluded. The primary outcome was current practice patterns, measured by a number of opioid claims, a percentage of patients prescribed opioids, a number of opioid prescriptions per year, a length of opioid therapy, and a frequency of specific comorbidities. A secondary outcome characterized providers and practice settings, comparing patients who received opioids with those who did not.
Results and conclusions: Of 8,373 adolescents with headache, 46% (3,859 patients) received an opioid prescription. Nearly half (48%) received one opioid prescription during follow-up; 29% received >= 3 opioid prescriptions. Of those with opioid prescriptions, 25% (977 patients) had a migraine diagnosis at index date. Among adolescents who received opioids, 28% (1,076 adolescents) had an emergency department (ED) visit for headache during follow-up versus 14% (608 adolescents) who did not receive opioids (p <.01). ED visits with a headache diagnosis during follow-up were strongly correlated with opioid use after adjusting for other covariates (odds ratio, 2.02; 95% confidence interval, 1.79-2.29). Despite the treatment guidelines recommending against their use, a large proportion of adolescents with headache were prescribed opioids. ED visits were strongly correlated with opioid prescriptions. (C) 2014 Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine. All rights reserved.