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Hung A, Bush C, Greiner M, Campbell H, Hammill B, Maciejewski ML, McKethan A. Risk Factors and Outcomes of Opioid Users with and Without Concurrent Benzodiazepine Use in the North Carolina Medicaid Population. Journal of managed care & specialty pharmacy. 2020 Feb 1; 26(2):169-175.
BACKGROUND: Concurrent use of opioids and benzodiazepines is associated with increased risk of opioid overdose and death. Clinical guidelines recommend against this practice and quality measures incentivize plans to minimize concurrent use. OBJECTIVE: To compare comorbidities, risky opioid-related behaviors such as high daily doses or multiple prescribers or pharmacies, and outcomes of users of opioids with and without benzodiazepine in the 2017-2018 North Carolina Medicaid population. METHODS: This was a retrospective claims analysis that used 2017-2018 North Carolina Medicaid enrollment and administrative claims data to describe 3 populations: (1) opioid users who concurrently used benzodiazepine for at least 30 days, (2) opioid users who used some benzodiazepine for 0 to less than 30 overlapping days, and (3) opioid users who did not use benzodiazepines. RESULTS: From 2017 to 2018, 6% of opioid users concurrently used opioids and benzodiazepines for at least 30 days, and 14% used some benzodiazepine for less than 30 overlapping days. Persons filling prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines were more likely to have mood disorders and more likely to have depression than opioid users who did not use benzodiazepines. Compared with those not using benzodiazepines, opioid users using benzodiazepine were also more likely to have higher daily opioid doses (at least 90 morphine milligram equivalents), at least 3 prescribers, and at least 3 pharmacies for opioid prescriptions. Although enrollees with at least 30 days of overlapping benzodiazepines and opioids had a higher percentage diagnosed with opioid use disorder compared with those with less than 30 days (30% vs. 13%), a similar percentage received medication-assisted treatment continuously for 90 days (2.6% vs. 2.7%) during 2017-2018. Users of opioids and benzodiazepines, whether for at least 30 overlapping days or less, had higher 1-year cumulative incidences of all-cause outpatient emergency department visits (64% and 65% vs. 52%) and all-cause hospitalizations (25% and 21% vs. 14%) compared with opioid users without benzodiazepine use. CONCLUSIONS: Despite guidelines and quality measures, patients continue to use opioids and benzodiazepines concurrently. Addressing underlying mood disorders and depression, curbing risky opioid-related behaviors, and increasing access to medication-assisted treatment may benefit this population. DISCLOSURES: This project was supported by Arnold Ventures (formerly Arnold Foundation). Hung reports personal fees from CVS Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, unrelated to this work. Maciejewski reports Amgen stock ownership due to spouse employment, unrelated to this work. McKethan reports personal fees from North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. All other authors have nothing to disclose. Part of this content was presented as a poster at AMCP Nexus 2019; October 29-November 1, 2019; National Harbor, MD.