Cohort profile: Using primary care data to understand Opioid Prescribing, Policy Impacts and Clinical Outcomes (OPPICO) in Victoria, Australia

Suzanne Nielsen, Rachelle Buchbinder, Christopher Pearce, Dan Lubman, Samanta Lalic, Romi Haas, Louisa Picco, Monica Jung, Helena Cangadis-Douglass, Jenni Ilomaki, J. Simon Bell, Ting Xia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: The OPPICO cohort is a population-based cohort based on non-identifiable electronic health records routinely collected from 464 general practices in Victoria, Australia, created with the aim of understanding opioid prescribing, policy impacts and clinical outcomes. The aim of this paper is to provide a profile of the study cohort by summarising available demographic, clinical and prescribing characteristics. PARTICIPANTS: The cohort described in this paper comprises people who were aged at least 14 years at cohort entry, and who were prescribed an opioid analgesic at least once at participating practices for a total of 1 137 728 person-years from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2020. The cohort was formed using the data collected from electronic health records through the Population Level Analysis and Reporting (POLAR) system. The POLAR data primarily consist of patient demographics, clinical measurements, Australian Medicare Benefits Scheme item numbers, diagnoses, pathology testing and prescribed medications. FINDING TO DATE: In total, the cohort consists of 676 970 participants with 4 389 185 opioid prescription records from 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2020. Approximately half (48.7%) received a single opioid prescription, and 0.9% received more than 100 opioid prescriptions. The mean number of opioid prescriptions per patient was 6.5 (SD=20.9); prescriptions for strong opioids accounted for 55.6% of all opioid prescriptions. FUTURE PLANS: The OPPICO cohort data will be used for various types of pharmacoepidemiological research, including examining the impact of policy changes on coprescription of opioids with benzodiazepines and gabapentin, and monitoring trends and patterns of other medication utilisation. Through data-linkage between our OPPICO cohort and hospital outcome data, we will examine whether policy changes for opioid prescribing lead to changes in prescription opioid-related harms, and other drug and mental health-related outcomes. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: EU PAS Register (EUPAS43218, prospectively registered).

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere067746
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Health policy

Cite this