Publicatie datum

Opioid prescribing in out-of-hours primary care in Flanders and the Netherlands: a retrospective cross-sectional study

Hek, K., Boogaerts, T., Verheij, R.A., Loof, H. de, Dijk, L. van, Nuijs, A.L.N. van, Meijer, W.M., Philips, H. Opioid prescribing in out-of-hours primary care in Flanders and the Netherlands: a retrospective cross-sectional study PLoS One: 2022, 17(4), p. Art. e0265283.
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Increased opioid prescribing has raised concern, as the benefits of pain relief not always outweigh the risks. Acute and chronic pain is often treated in a primary care out-of-hours (OOH) setting. This setting may be a driver of opioid use but the extent to which opioids are prescribed OOH is unknown. We aimed to investigate weak and strong opioid prescribing at OOH primary care services (PCS) in Flanders (Northern, Dutch-speaking part of Belgium) and the Netherlands between 2015 and 2019.

We performed a retrospective cross sectional study using data from routine electronic health records of OOH-PCSs in Flanders and the Netherlands (2015-2019). Our primary outcome was the opioid prescribing rate per 1000 OOH-contacts per year, in total and for strong (morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, oxycodone and naloxone, fentanyl, tapentadol, and buprenorphine and weak opioids (codeine combinations and tramadol and combinations) and type of opioids separately.

Opioids were prescriped in approximately 2.5% of OOH-contacts in both Flanders and the Netherlands. In Flanders, OOH opioid prescribing went from 2.4% in 2015 to 2.1% in 2017 and then increased to 2.3% in 2019. In the Netherlands, opioid prescribing increased from 1.9% of OOH-contacts in 2015 to 2.4% in 2017 and slightly decreased thereafter to 2.1% of OOH-contacts. In 2019, in Flanders, strong opioids were prescribed in 8% of the OOH-contacts with an opioid prescription. In the Netherlands a strong opioid was prescribed in 57% of these OOH-contacts. Two thirds of strong opioids prescriptions in Flanders OOH were issued for patients over 75, in the Netherlands one third was prescribed to this age group.

We observed large differences in strong opioid prescribing at OOH-PCSs between Flanders and the Netherlands that are likely to be caused by differences in accessibility of secondary care, and possibly existing opioid prescribing habits. Measures to ensure judicious and evidence-based opioid prescribing need to be tailored to the organisation of the healthcare system.