Prescription opioid use in patients with and without systemic lupus erythematosus — Michigan Lupus Epidemiology and Surveillance program, 2014–2015

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes


Rheumatic diseases are a leading cause of chronic, noncancer pain. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune rheumatic disease characterized by periodic flares that can result in irreversible target organ damage, including end-stage renal disease. Both intermittent and chronic musculoskeletal pain, as well as fibromyalgia (considered a centralized pain disorder due to dysregulation of pain processing in the central nervous system), are common in SLE. Opioids are generally not indicated for long-term management of musculoskeletal pain or centralized pain (fibromyalgia) because of lack of efficacy, safety issues ranging from adverse medical effects to overdose, and risk for addiction (1,2). In this study of 462 patients with SLE from the population-based Michigan Lupus Epidemiology and Surveillance (MILES) Cohort and 192 frequency-matched persons without SLE, nearly one third (31%) of SLE patients were using prescription opioids during the study period (2014-2015), compared with 8% of persons without SLE (p<0.001). Among the SLE patients using opioids, 97 (68%) were using them for >1 year, and 31 (22%) were concomitantly on two or more opioid medications. Among SLE patients, those using the emergency department (ED) were approximately twice as likely to use prescription opioids (odds ratio [OR] = 2.1; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.3-3.6; p = 0.004). In SLE, the combined contributions of underlying disease and adverse effects of immunosuppressive and glucocorticoid therapies already put patients at higher risk for some known adverse effects attributed to long-term opioid use. Addressing the widespread and long-term use of opioid therapy in SLE will require strategies aimed at preventing opioid initiation, tapering and discontinuation of opioids among patients who are not achieving treatment goals of reduced pain and increased function, and consideration of nonopioid pain management strategies.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)819–824
Number of pages6
JournalMorbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
Issue number38
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sep 2019


  • Adult, Aged, Analgesics, Opioid/therapeutic use, Cohort Studies, Drug Prescriptions/statistics & numerical data, Emergency Service, Hospital, Female, Humans, Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic/drug therapy, Male, Michigan/epidemiology, Middle Aged, Pain Management/methods, Population Surveillance, Risk