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Background: Musculoskeletal pain is common in elderly persons. Analgesic use is high in the elderly and may involve unacceptable risk in individuals with chronic pain. Our aim was to compare the socio-demographic characteristics of elderly subjects with musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and to assess medication use and clinical evolution of musculoskeletal pain according to physician prescribing preference: homeopathy (Ho) group, conventional medicine (CM) group, or mixed prescription (MX) group.
Methods: The EPI3 study was a 1 year observational survey carried out among general practitioners in France between March 2007 and July 2008. This sub-analysis was carried out on elderly subjects aged ≥70 years from the original EPI3 cohort. Socio-demographic data were collected at inclusion using a self-administered patient questionnaire and medical data were recorded for each patient. Quality of life was measured using the Short Form-12 questionnaire. Patients completed a structured telephone interview on their functional status (evaluated with the QuickDash questionnaire, EIFEL scale or Lequesne index) within 72 hours of inclusion. This telephone interview was repeated at 1, 3, and 12 months. Drug exposure was also assessed during these interviews.
Results: 146 patients (mean age ± standard deviation: 75.8±4.8 years) were analyzed (80.1% female, 74.7% MSD of the spine or lower limbs, 64.4% chronic MSD). Patients in the CM and MX groups were 3.7 times or 2.5 times more likely (odds ratio [OR] =3.71, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.12-12.30; OR =2.52, 95% CI: 1.05-6.05; respectively) to have used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) than those in the Ho group. In contrast, analgesic use was comparable in the three groups (OR =1.06 [CM versus Ho], 95% CI: 0.09-12.11; OR =0.34 [MX versus Ho], 95% CI: 0.07-1.57). Overall functional score evolution was similar in the three groups over time (P=0.16).
Conclusion: NSAID use was significantly higher in elderly MSD patients consulting a conventional practice general practitioner. In contrast, analgesic use and MSD evolution were similar in the three groups. Consulting a homeopathic physician for MSD management does not appear to represent a loss of therapeutic opportunity, and decreases the use of NSAIDs.
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