Opioids are prescribed more frequently than nonpharmacologic treatments for persistent musculoskeletal pain (MSP). We estimate the association between the supply of physical therapy (PT) and mental health (MH) providers and early nonpharmacologic service use with high-risk opioid prescriptions among Medicare beneficiaries with persistent MSP.
We retrospectively studied Medicare beneficiaries (>65 y) enrolled in Fee-for-Service and Part D (2007–2014) with a new persistent MSP episode and no opioid prescription during the prior 6 months. Independent variables were nonpharmacologic provider supply per capita and early nonpharmacologic service use (any use during first 3 mo). One year outcomes were long-term opioid use (LTOU) (≥90 days’ supply) and high daily dose (HDD) (≥50 mg morphine equivalent). We used multinomial regression and generalized estimating equations and present adjusted odds ratios (aORs).
About 2.4% of beneficiaries had LTOU; 11.9% had HDD. The supply of MH providers was not associated with LTOU and HDD. Each additional PT/10,000 people/county was associated with greater odds of LTOU [aOR: 1.06; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.01–1.11). Early MH use was associated with lower odds of a low-risk opioid use (aOR: 0.81; 95% CI, 0.68–0.96), but greater odds of LTOU (aOR: 1.93; 95% CI, 1.28–2.90). Among beneficiaries with an opioid prescription, early PT was associated with lower odds of LTOU (aOR: 0.75; 95% CI, 0.64–0.89), but greater odds of HDD (aOR: 1.25; 95% CI, 1.15–1.36).
The benefits of nonpharmacologic services on opioid use may be limited. Research on effective delivery of nonpharmacologic services to reduce high-risk opioid use for older adults with MSP is needed.