Prescription opioid dispensing in New South Wales, Australia: spatial and temporal variation

M. Mofizul Islam, Ian S. McRae, Soumya Mazumdar, Paul Simpson, Dennis Wollersheim, Kaniz Fatema, Tony Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Patterns of opioid dispensing often exhibit substantial temporal and geographical variability, which has implications for public health policy decisions and interventions. The study examined recent trends in prescription opioid dispensing and identified high dispensing areas and factors associated with the doses dispensed. METHODS: Three years (1 January 2013-31 December 2015) of dispensing data of prescription opioids in local government areas (LGAs) for New South Wales (NSW), Australia's most populous state, were analyzed. The proportion of individuals who were dispensed opioids was computed for four age-groups. A Chi-square test was used to examine trends over time in proportions of the population who were dispensed opioids in four age-groups. The number of prescriptions over time and quantities in daily defined dose/1000 people/day (denoted DDD) were also examined. LGAs with relatively high levels of dispensing were identified and mapped. A multivariate regression model was used to identify factors associated with DDD. RESULTS: Overall, codeine, oxycodone and tramadol were the main opioids in terms of DDD, number of prescriptions and number of individuals who were dispensed these medications. Quantity (in DDD), and population dispensed to were consistently higher for women than men over time. Proportions of individuals who were dispensed opioids increased significantly over time in all four age-groups. In the multivariate model, age, urbanization, sex and socio-economic indexes for areas were significantly associated with doses dispensed among opioid users. All areas with very high dispensing were outside major metropolitan areas. CONCLUSIONS: Given that over-use of opioids is a major public health problem and that long-term use has substantial side effects including dependence, it is important to understand spatial patterns of opioid prescribing to enable targeted interventions. Nationwide implementation of real-time drug-monitoring programs and access to monitoring databases from both doctor and pharmacy point-of-care sources may potentially reduce excessive and undue use of opioid.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalBMC pharmacology & toxicology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


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