Opioid Prescribing Safety Measures in Medicaid Enrollees With and Without Cancer

Patience Moyo, Walid F. Gellad, Lindsay M. Sabik, Gerald T. Cochran, Evan S. Cole, Adam J. Gordon, David K. Kelley, Julie M. Donohue

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Introduction: Opioid prescribing safety among individuals with cancer is poorly understood. This study estimates the prevalence of Pharmacy Quality Alliance opioid measures among individuals with cancer undergoing or not undergoing active treatment versus those without cancer. Methods: Pennsylvania Medicaid data (2016) were analyzed in 2018 to identify adults aged 18–64 years with and without cancer diagnoses who had 2 or more opioid prescriptions. Active cancer treatment, defined as having chemotherapy, radiotherapy, cancer surgery, or hospitalization with a primary diagnosis of cancer, was evaluated from October 2015 to December 2016 allowing a ≥3-month look-back period for cancer diagnoses observed in the first quarter of 2016. Opioid dosages (>120 morphine milligram equivalents for ≥90 consecutive days), multiple providers (4 or more prescribers and 4 or more pharmacies), and opioid and benzodiazepines overlapping ≥30 days were evaluated. Results: The sample with opioid prescriptions included 111,491 enrollees without cancer diagnoses and 12,819 with cancer, 58.8% of whom were not in active cancer treatment. Among enrollees undergoing cancer treatment, with cancer but not in active treatment, and without cancer, the prevalence of high morphine milligram equivalents was 7.1%, 6.0%, and 4.7% (p<0.001), respectively. The corresponding prevalence of multiple providers was 6.7%, 4.1%, and 3.4% (p<0.001). Concurrent opioid and benzodiazepine prescriptions occurred in 28.6%, 30.5%, and 26.8% (p<0.001), respectively. Conclusions: Individuals with cancer, regardless of treatment status, had higher-risk opioid use based on Pharmacy Quality Alliance measures versus those without cancer. Their systematic exclusion from opioid quality surveillance could create missed opportunities to identify patients at high risk of adverse opioid-related outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)540-544
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


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