Approximately half of all people with diabetes develop diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) and half experience pain. Guidelines recommend pregabalin, gabapentin, and duloxetine (a selective norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake inhibitor [SNRI]) due to their demonstrated efficacy and safety. Topical analgesics, tricyclic anti-depressants (TCA), and anti-convulsants may also be used. Opioids are discouraged due to lack of effectiveness, risk of addiction, and safety concerns. To promote safe evidence-based pain management, we examined pain medication use by adults diagnosed with DPN between 2002-2019 in an integrated healthcare system across 5 states. We identified 13,815 adults with newly diagnosed DPN; mean age 66 (SD, 13) years, 42% female, 93% white, 29% insulin-treated. Overall, 56% received a pain medication from DPN diagnosis (1 month prior or continued from baseline) to 2 years later. Limiting to treatment pathways observed in ≥1% of cases, opioids were the most used 1st line medication, followed by gabapentin and others (Figure). Opioids and gabapentin were also the most prevalent 2nd line drugs. High rates of opioid use by patients with DPN, a life-long pain syndrome, are concerning particularly as safer effective treatment options are available. Further research is needed to identify drivers of opioid use and barriers to evidence-based alternatives, and develop interventions to improve DPN management in clinical practice.


J. Fan: None. M.M. Jeffery: None. W. Hooten: None. N. Shah: None. R.G. McCoy: None.


National Institutes of Health (K23DK114497)

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