Objectives: To investigate the trends and characteristics of pethidine prescriptions and users in Taiwan from 2002 to 2007. Method: All pethidine users (n = 3,301,136) in Taiwan from 2002 to 2007 were linked to National Health Insurance claims to identify pethidine prescriptions. We examined the trends in pethidine user prevalence and the proportion of pethidine prescriptions according to health care characteristics. A logistic regression model was used to compare patient demographics and health care characteristics associated with pethidine prescriptions between 2002 and 2007. Results: Despite the decline in the number of pethidine users and prescriptions over the six-year period, more than half a million people were prescribed pethidine annually. In fact, an increasing proportion of pethidine prescriptions were observed in clinics, outpatient settings, and patients who had both operations and cancer diagnoses. Pethidine prescriptions were mostly associated with a non-operation status without a cancer diagnosis (>60%). However, approximately 10% of the total pethidine prescriptions were found in patients with a cancer diagnosis but no operation. Compared to those in 2002, pethidine prescriptions in 2007 were more likely to be found in people 80 years or older, rural residents, patients from clinics, outpatient settings and operation patients with cancer diagnoses. Conclusions: A population-based survey in Taiwan demonstrated decreasing consumption of pethidine from 2002 to 2007; however, an increased proportion of prescriptions in certain health care settings was observed. In addition, 10% of the pethidine prescriptions were for cancer patients without operations. These cases need further evaluation for the determination of appropriate pethidine use.
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