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AbstractBackgroundSustained‐release (SR) tapentadol was listed on Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) in 2014 for chronic severe pain requiring long‐term opioid treatment. Dispensings have increased since listing despite declining trends in other PBS‐listed opioids. Preferential prescribing of SR opioids may increase the risk of dependence and accidental overdose, particularly when used to treat acute pain.AimsTo explore the quality use of publicly subsidised tapentadol in Australia.MethodsWe examined annual initiation rates and patterns of use of tapentadol (SR) in the dispensing records of a 10% random sample of PBS‐eligible Australians (2014–2021). We used national tapentadol sales data to assess the proportion of sales attributable to the PBS.ResultsTapentadol initiation increased from 2014, peaking at 7.5/1000 adult population in 2019 before declining to 5.3/1000 in 2021. We identified 63 766 new users between 2014 and 2020, of whom 92.8% discontinued in the first year following initiation, 58.0% had only a single dispensing and 34.3% had no other opioids dispensed in the 3 months before or after initiation. 27.8% of new users were dispensed tapentadol on the same day as potentially interacting medicines. There was a sustained drop in the proportion of sales attributable to the PBS from June 2020 onwards, from an average of 69.1%, to 63.9% of pack sales.ConclusionsPatterns of use suggest tapentadol (SR) is generally used for short duration. Although most tapentadol sold in Australia is subsidised, there is evidence of a shift towards private sales.

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Journal article


Internal Medicine Journal



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