Research Article| Volume 104, ISSUE 6, P648-653, December 2021

Prescription opioid fills following surgical abortion



      To characterize opioid fills after surgical abortion among US commercially-insured women.

      Study design

      We identified women aged 15–50 years with an outpatient claim for dilation and curettage or evacuation surgical abortion (D&C/D&E) in IBM MarketScan 2015–2018 and excluded patients with > 1 opioid fill in the prior 90 days, evidence of opioid dependence or abuse in the prior 180 days (baseline), miscarriage in 7 days prior, or mifepristone use in 3 to 7 days prior. We describe the frequency of an oral opioid fill within 7 days after abortion, refill within 42 days of initial fill, and chronic use (≥ 6 fills) in 1 year after abortion. We used multivariable logistic regression to evaluate predictors of opioid fill including patient and procedure characteristics.


      Among 28,252 patients who underwent induced surgical abortion, 2,340 (8.3%) filled an opioid prescription within 7 days. The strongest predictors of opioid fill were non-Northeast region, use of moderate sedation for the procedure, and baseline depression. Among 2,250 patients with an initial fill and sufficient follow-up, 10.0% had a refill within 42 days of initial fill. Among 15,353 patients with sufficient follow-up, patients with an opioid fill after abortion had a higher percentage of subsequent chronic use than those without (2.1% and 0.4%, respectively).


      The frequency of an opioid fill after surgical abortion among commercially-insured women was notable given it is not recommended for post-procedural analgesia. Opioid prescribing contrary to recommendations may be associated with subsequent chronic use or abuse.

      Implications statement

      Despite public health efforts to decrease opioid prescribing, these findings suggest opioid prescribing after surgical abortion as a potential source of overprescribing among commercially insured patients in the United States. As surgical abortion is a minimally-invasive procedure, prescribing opioids for use in this setting may contribute to chronic use.


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