Prevalence of Analgesic Prescriptions among Patients with Cancer in Japan: An Analysis of Health Insurance Claims Data

  •  Takahiro Higashi    
  •  Tetsusuke Yoshimoto    
  •  Motohiro Matoba    


Objectives: To promote effective management of cancer pain as a nationwide health policy, it is necessary to monitor the performance of health care providers in managing pain in their patients. To plan a system that monitors the performance of pain management, the exact methods of measurement, including the range of target patients, and estimate the resources must be defined. Performance in pain management can be evaluated either in all patients with cancer or restricted to patients with cancer who are already taking analgesics. Restricting the target patient group to patients on analgesics may be more efficient but the extent of that efficiency remains uncertain.

Methods: Using insurance claims from eight employer-sponsored insurance companies, we analyzed data from patients (N = 2858) who had received anti-cancer treatment (ie, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) for the five major cancers in Japan (ie, breast, colorectal, liver, lung, and stomach cancers).

Results: Overall, 22.9% of patients received some kind of analgesic prescription in the course of a month. Lung cancer patients were more likely to be prescribed analgesic prescriptions (any analgesics 34.8%; opioids 18.2%) than patients with the other four cancers. The observed percentage of patients who received analgesic prescriptions over the study period (ie, January 2005 to November 2009) decreased.

Conclusion: If we limit the target patient group to patients with cancer already on analgesics, we can reduce the number of persons to be contacted by about three-fourths, compared to assessing pain in all patients with cancer. Although we do not wish to ignore the problem of undetected pain among patients with cancer, beginning our systematic evaluation with patients with cancer already on analgesics may be a realistic option.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.