Chronic Opioid Use in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Prevalence and Predictors

Yvonne Claire Lee*, Joel Kremer, Hongshu Guan, Jeffrey Greenberg, Daniel H. Solomon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Objective: The opioid epidemic is a major public health concern. However, little is known about opioid use among rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. We undertook this study to examine trends in chronic opioid use in RA patients in 2002–2015 and to identify clinical predictors. Methods: RA patients were identified from the Corrona registry. Opioid use was ascertained from surveys obtained at clinical visits as often as every 3 months. Chronic opioid use was defined as any opioid use reported during ≥2 consecutive study visits. Annual prevalence of chronic opioid use was calculated using data from 33,739 RA patients with information on opioid use from ≥2 visits. Among the 26,288 individuals who were not taking opioids at baseline, Cox proportional hazards models identified associations between patient characteristics and incident chronic opioid use. Hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were calculated. Results: Chronic opioid use increased from 7.4% in 2002 to 16.9% in 2015. Severe pain (HR 2.53 [95% CI 2.19–2.92]) and antidepressant use (HR 1.79 [95% CI 1.64–1.92]) were associated with an increased risk of chronic opioid use. High disease activity (HR 1.55 [95% CI 1.30–1.84]) and a high level of disability (HR 1.45 [95% CI 1.27–1.65]) were also associated with chronic opioid use, whereas Asian ethnicity (HR 0.49 [95% CI 0.36–0.68]) was associated with a decreased risk of chronic opioid use. Conclusion: Among RA patients, chronic opioid use doubled from 2002 to 2015. Pain and antidepressant use were the strongest predictors of chronic opioid use. To curb the rise in chronic opioid use, strategies for stringent control of RA disease activity and management of pain and depression should be research priorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-677
Number of pages8
JournalArthritis and Rheumatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology


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