Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drug Use and Its Effect on Long-term Opioid Use in Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Akhil Sood, Yong Fang Kuo, Jordan Westra, Mukaila A. Raji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Objectives The prevalence of chronic pain is high in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), increasing the risk for opioid use. The objective of this study was to assess disease-modifying antirheumatic drug (DMARD) use and its effect on long-term opioid use in patients with RA. Methods This cohort study included Medicare beneficiaries with diagnosis of RA who received at least 30-day consecutive prescription of opioids in 2017 (n = 23,608). The patients were grouped into non-DMARD and DMARD users, who were further subdivided into regimens set forth by the American College of Rheumatology. The outcome measured was long-term opioid use in 2018 defined as at least 90-day consecutive prescription of opioids. Dose and duration of opioid use were also assessed. A multivariable model identifying factors associated with non-DMARD use was also performed. Results Compared with non-DMARD users, the odds of long-term opioid use were significantly lower among DMARD users (odds ratio, 0.89; 95% confidence interval, 0.83-0.95). All regimens except non-tumor necrosis factor biologic + methotrexate were associated with lower odds of long-term opioid use relative to non-DMARD users. The mean total morphine milligram equivalent, morphine milligram equivalent per day, and total days of opioid use were lower among DMARD users compared with non-DMARD users. Older age, male sex, Black race, psychiatric and medical comorbidities, and not being seen by a rheumatologist were significantly associated with non-DMARD use. Conclusion Disease-modifying antirheumatic drug use was associated with lower odds of long-term opioid use among RA patients with baseline opioid prescription. Factors associated with non-DMARD use represent a window of opportunity for intervention to improve pain-related quality of life in patients living with RA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-267
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Rheumatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 1 2023


  • opioids
  • rheumatoid arthritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


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