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High Rate of Opioid Prescribing to Children With Asthma

Opioid prescribing to children and adolescents with asthma is high, according to a study presented, during a poster session at ISPOR 2019 . 

“Case reports suggested that opioids could potentially increase the risk of asthma exacerbation either via chronic airway inflammation or via epithelial destruction leading to hyper-irritable airways,” wrote researchers from the University of Houston, who advised further analysis into the risk of asthma exacerbation and opioid use. 

Researchers used data from a Medicaid managed care plan in Texas to look at opioid prescribing to nearly 800,000 children and adolescents between 2013 and 2016. Just over 12% of the children had asthma. 

The prevalence of opioid analgesic use was 11.6% in children with asthma and 5.9% in children without asthma, researchers reported. The prevalence of opioid antitussive use was 1.2% in children with asthma and 0.4% in children without asthma. 

Codeine was the most commonly prescribed opioid, making up 59.5% of opioid analgesic prescriptions and 98.9% of cough suppressant prescriptions, according to the poster. Nearly 48% of children with asthma filled three or more prescriptions for opioid medications. 

The research did uncover one positive trend: the total number of opioid prescriptions filled by children with asthma dropped slightly, from 13.9% to 13.4%, between 2013 and 2016. 

“Although the utilization trend has decreased during the study period, the overall utilization rate remained high,” researchers wrote, “and the long-term use was common.”—Jolynn Tumolo 

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