National gender differences in the prescribing of opioid medications from 2006 to 2015


  • Salena Marie Preciado, MS
  • Daniel Tomaszewski, PharmD, PhD
  • T. Craig Cheetham, PharmD, MS
  • Tania Gregorian, PharmD
  • Sharon Xavioer, PharmD, BCACP
  • Souhiela Fawaz, BPharm (Hons), PhD



gender, opioids, gender differences, pain management, retrospective studies


Objective: To identify gender differences in opioid prescribing from ambulatory care settings and identify factors associated with prescribing of opioids for men and women.

Design and participants: Retrospective analysis of data from The National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2015. Eligible patients were at least 18 years old on the date of the physician office visit. Data were collected on patient demographics and clinical factors. Data were analyzed using bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models to explore differences in opioid prescribing among men and women. Due to the large sample size, the significance level was set to p < 0.001.

Main outcome measure: Opioid prescribing during an office visit.

Results: A total of 322 957 ambulatory care visits for adults were included in the analysis representing 7.8 billion weighted visits nationally. In 771 601 088 (9.8 percent) visits, an opioid was prescribed. Women received an opioid prescription at 9.4 percent of visits compared to 10.4 percent of visits for men. Gender differences for factors including age, region, payment method, and pain diagnosis were observed (p < 0.001). Women had a higher number of visits with an opioid (449 277 925 vs 322 323 163), but men had higher odds of being prescribed an opioid (OR: 1.214; CI: 1.214-1.214).

Conclusion: Men are more likely to be prescribed an opioid as compared to women, but women are being prescribed more opioids overall. Gender differences should be further explored to develop gender-specific interventions to reduce opioid prescribing.

Author Biographies

Salena Marie Preciado, MS

Graduate Student, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Chapman University, Irvine, California

Daniel Tomaszewski, PharmD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Chapman University, Irvine, California

T. Craig Cheetham, PharmD, MS

Research Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Chapman University, Irvine, California

Tania Gregorian, PharmD

Assistant Professor/Clinical Pharmacist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Care Foundation Pain Management, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Chapman University, Irvine, California

Sharon Xavioer, PharmD, BCACP

Assistant Professor/ Clinical Pharmacist, AltaMed Health Services Corporation, Department of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy, Chapman University, Irvine, California

Souhiela Fawaz, BPharm (Hons), PhD

Assistant Professor of Social and Administrative Pharmacy, School of Pharmacy, Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chapman University, Irvine, California


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How to Cite

Preciado, MS, S. M., D. Tomaszewski, PharmD, PhD, T. C. Cheetham, PharmD, MS, T. Gregorian, PharmD, S. Xavioer, PharmD, BCACP, and S. Fawaz, BPharm (Hons), PhD. “National Gender Differences in the Prescribing of Opioid Medications from 2006 to 2015”. Journal of Opioid Management, vol. 16, no. 3, May 2020, pp. 197-08, doi:10.5055/jom.2020.0568.