Epilepsy Patients Have Higher Rate of Opioid Use, Pain

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People with epilepsy are more likely to be diagnosed with painful conditions and have prescriptions for opioids, according to a database study that was presented at the annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society.

Although the study can’t confirm a link between epilepsy, pain, and opioid use, it does shed light on pain-related comorbidities that may occur alongside epilepsy.

The study analyzed the health-care activities of 10,271 health plan members with epilepsy and compared them to 20,542 age, gender, and insurance-matched controls. Of the people with epilepsy, 26% had received an opioid prescription compared to 18% of the non-epilepsy members, according to Andrew Wilner, MD, of Angels Neurological Centers in Abington, Mass., and colleagues.

Epilepsy patients were also more likely to have at least one of 16 pain-related conditions including headache, sciatica, and joint pain. 51% had at least one pain condition compared to 39% of controls.

Although epilepsy is not a painful condition, seizures can lead to falls and resulting injuries, like fractures, which were seen two times more often in epilepsy patients compared to controls.

Wilner and colleagues from the Accordant Health Services unit of CVS Caremark also noted that opioids are often considered ineffective for many of the pain-related conditions, but are nevertheless prescribed.  

Epilepsy Patients Have Higher Rate of Opioid Use, Pain

Individuals with epilepsy had insurance claims for opioid prescriptions and diagnoses of painful conditions that were substantially more common than in a control group of nonepileptic patients, according to a database study reported here.

Among 10,271 health plan members with a diagnosis of epilepsy in 2012, 26% had received an opioid prescription versus 18% of 20,542 members of the same plans matched for gender, age range, and insurance type (P<0.001), said Andrew Wilner, MD, of Angels Neurological Centers in Abington, Mass.

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