Impact of opioids in women with endometriosis


The risk of opioid use after endometriosis diagnosis is significantly greater in patients who used opioids before diagnosis, according to a retrospective analysis of data from a large health database.

The analysis in the Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research also found that the risk of prolonged opioid use was significantly greater if comorbidities existed before diagnosis.1

Senior author Georgine Lamvu, MN, MPH, a professor of ob/gyn at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, was prompted to undertake the analysis after a colleague remarked to her that he did not believe that women with endometriosis used opioids.

Georgine Lamvu, MN, MPH

“In my practice, I had seen many women with endometriosis who reported using opioids, so I was curious to find out the actual numbers,” Lamvu told Contemporary OB/GYN.

Medical and pharmacy claims information on 79,947 women with endometriosis from July 2015 to June 2018 were analyzed from the Symphony Health database.

The date of the first endometriosis diagnosis was deemed the index date and the 1-year period preceding the index data was considered the baseline period.

Women were aged 18 to 49 at the index date and had continuous pharmacy and medical enrollment for at least 1 year before and after their endometriosis diagnosis; in other words, at least one pharmacy claim every 3 months during the study period.

Women with endometriosis who used opioids at baseline were 61% more likely to receive opioids post-diagnosis.

The risk of prolonged opioid supply post-diagnosis was highest among women with a prolonged supply at baseline: relative risk (RR) 21.14, which significantly decreased to 1.32 for patients without a prolonged supply but with at least one comorbidity, 1.37 for pain comorbidities and 1.07 for psychiatric co-morbidities.

“I was surprised to find out how many women with endometriosis actually used opioids beyond 90 days,” Lamvu said. “All the other findings were expected.”

There is limited evidence to indicate that long-term opioid therapy is effective in treating other chronic pain conditions and no research to validate that opioids are efficacious for endometriosis-related pain.

“Nonetheless, the risk of opioid-related adverse events correlates with the dose and duration of opioid use,” Lamvu said. “This can lead to opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which counterproductively amplifies pain.”

In addition, high daily doses and prolonged use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain can increase the risk of opioid abuse. More definitive is that comorbid psychiatric disorders in patients with chronic pain conditions like low back pain are linked to opioid misuse.

“The high prevalence of psychiatric comorbidities in patients with endometriosis suggests that this population may be vulnerable to opioid misuse,” Lamvu said.

Optimal endometriosis treatment should encompass a patient-centric strategy, according to Lamvu, integrating pharmacologic and surgical options to manage symptoms, in conjunction with therapies to improve health-related quality of life.

“Multi-disciplinary care with adequate management of comorbidities could optimize endometriosis treatment and reduce inappropriate or excessive treatment with opioids,” Lamvu said.

The analysis identifies a group of women who need specific counseling on the risks of long-term opioid use. “However, because we have no research that shows that opioids are effective for endometriosis-related pain, we need more research on this topic,” Lamvu said. “Also, because many women with endometriosis have surgery, post-op opioid use needs to be discussed with caution.”



Lamvu has served as a research consultant for AbbVie.



  1. Lamvu G, Soliman A, Johns B, et al. Impact of pain and nonpain co-morbidities on opioid use in women with endometriosis. J Comp Eff Res. Published online November 3, 2020. doi:10.2217/cer-2020-0181
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