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AHRQ Stats: Opioid Use Among Elderly Adults

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A new AHRQ Statistical Brief found in 2018 and 2019, 15.8 percent of elderly adults filled at least one outpatient opioid prescription during the year, and 4.9 percent obtained five or more prescriptions in the same time period.

The Statistical Brief presents estimates of fills of prescriptions for opioid medications that are commonly used to treat pain obtained from the 2018-2019 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component (MEPS-HC). These estimates are an update of the 2015-2016 estimates presented in the previous Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Statistical Brief #515.

Highlights from the Statistical Brief include:

  • Elderly adults who were poor (7.2 percent), low income (6.8 percent), or middle income (5.1 percent) were more likely than high-income elderly adults (3.4 percent) to obtain five or more opioid prescription fills during the year.
  • Elderly adults with Medicare and other public insurance coverage were more likely to have five or more opioid prescription fills (8.0 percent) than those with Medicare only (4.7 percent) and those with Medicare and private insurance coverage (4.3 percent).
  • In 2018-2019, the average annual rates of any outpatient opioid use and frequent use were higher for elderly adults with fair perceived health (23.4 percent and 9.7 percent) or poor perceived health (26.1 percent and 11.6 percent) than those with excellent perceived health (8.5 percent and 1.9 percent) or very good perceived health (12.6 percent and 2.6 percent).

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