Strong opioid prescription in cancer patients in their final year of life: A population-based analysis using a Taiwanese health insurance database

Yu Lin Lin, Ruey Kuen Hsieh, Chao Hsiun Tang

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Aim: Pain assessment and management have been important criteria in hospital accreditation in Taiwan since 2007. We used a Taiwanese health insurance database to determine factors influencing patterns of strong opioid use in cancer patients in their final 12 months of life. Methods: Data from patients with cancer in Taiwan outpatient clinics with cancer-related deaths between 2008 and 2011 were included in the analysis. Strong opioid prescription data from the last 12 months of each patient's life, as well as patient, physician, and hospital characteristics, were collected from the National Health Insurance Research Database. Results: Among 162 679 patients, more were male (63.6%) than female (36.4%) and almost half (49.3%) were ≥70 years old. Most (44.9%) patients had gastrointestinal cancer. More than one-third (35.4%) of patients were prescribed strong opioids during the 12 months before death, and more than half (53.2%) of those prescribed opioids received them in the 3 months before death. Median duration of strong opioid use was 81 days before death. Patients with head/neck cancer (52.8%) or who were treated in hematology and oncology departments (45.8%) were most likely, and patients with gastrointestinal cancer (hazard ratio = 0.65; 95% confidence interval, 0.64-0.67) or treated in gastroenterology departments (hazard ratio = 0.88; 95% confidence interval, 0.84-0.93) were least likely to be prescribed strong opioids. Conclusion: Strong opioid prescriptions varied among patients with different cancer diagnoses and physicians. Information from this study can guide efforts to improve patient and physician education about cancer pain management.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • Cancer
  • Opioid
  • Pain
  • Prescriptions
  • Taiwan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology

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