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Quality of life in relation to constipation among opioid users

OBJECTIVE: Opioid users often experience constipation. In this study the impact of constipation on QoL was assessed in patients using opioids either for non-advanced illness or advanced illness. METHODS: Patients using opioids, recruited via publicpharmacies, were asked to complete questionnaires on opioid use, constipation and the EuroQol five-dimension questionnaire (EQ-5D). Patients with a severe non-curable disease and relatively short life-expectancy were classified as having an advanced illness; a disabling yet not directly life-threatening condition was defined as non-advanced illness. Constipation was assessed based on questions on opioid side-effects and laxative use. EQ-5D index scores were compared between patients with and without constipation using Wilcoxon two-samples test. RESULTS: Questionnaires were returned by 588 patients with non-advanced illness, of whom 326 (55%) were classified as having constipation and by 113 patients with advanced illness, of whom 76 (67%) were classified as having constipation. The median EQ-5D index, a weighted health state index score with 1 = full health, was lower in patients with constipation than in patients without constipation (0.31 vs. 0.65, p< 0.01 for non-advanced illness and 0.41 vs. 0.61,p=0.12 for advanced illness). CONCLUSION: The results of this study suggest that, in patients using opioids either for non-advanced illness or advanced illness, constipation negatively influences QoL. By separately analysing patients with advanced illness and patients with non-advanced illness, possible selective non-response and confounding was accounted for, but not completely solved.

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