Recently announced changes to the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) program in regards to reimbursement for high-strength long-acting opioids have elicited much discussion regarding their potential impact and implications in palliative care.
The ODPRN conducted a rapid analysis to inform current discussions on the utilizations of high strength formulations of long-acting hydromorphone, morphine and fentanyl and their usage among palliative care patients. The analysis reports prescribing trends in the ODB program between April 2014 and March 2015.
The analysis found:
- More than 42 million long-acting opioid tablets or patches were prescribed during this time and reimbursed by the government.
- Of those, almost 11% were high strength – the ones the Ontario government plans to stop funding, or “de-list” in January 2017.
- Government-funded long-acting opioid tablets and patches were prescribed to 87,453 people in the year studied.
- Of those, almost 16% had received at least one prescription for a high-strength opioid, or 13,695 people.
- 62,602 people received palliative care in Ontario over the study period.
- In this population, 42.5% were treated with opioids that were reimbursed by the ODB program, but only 2.7% received high-strength opioids.
- 9/10 people in Ontario who receive government reimbursement for their prescription high-strength, long-acting opioid tablets or patches are not palliative care patients.