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Use of digital data to evaluate the benefits and harms associated with opioids for non-cancer pain

   Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health

  ,  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Over the last 15 years, an opioid crisis has gripped several countries accompanied by a parallel increase in opioid prescribing, opioid-related morbidity, and mortality. In the UK, 13% of the adult population (5.6 million people) had an opioid prescription dispensed for chronic non-cancer pain between 2017-18, according to Public Health England. Patients and clinicians face important challenges in attempting to balance benefits and harms of adequately managing chronic pain and development of adverse events, persistent opioid use and dependence. Electronic health records (EHRs) in hospitals and primary care contain a wealth of rich, routinely collected information that have the potential to drive improvements in patient care and research. Emerging patient generated data from mobile health and social media provide opportunities to capture the patient experience, including potential benefits and adverse events not routinely captured in EHRs. This PhD offers an opportunity to use these data to analyse a range of short and long-term outcomes, deemed important to patients and policy makers. The project has some flexibility and with the supervisors a specific project focussed on the applicant’s interests can be refined. This research will have potential to contribute to important public health and societal impact, enable safe prescribing by clinicians and most importantly improved patient outcomes.

 The candidate should have experience and/or have received some training in public health, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology or statistics.

1.Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in public health, epidemiology, pharmacoepidemiology, statistics, data science, or other related field. A Masters degree in a relevant subject and/or experience in a related subject area/discipline is desirable. 

2.     For information on how to apply for this project, please visit the Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health Doctoral Academy website ( Informal enquiries may be made directly to the primary supervisor. On the online application form select the PhD title.

3.     For international students, we also offer a unique 4 year PhD programme that gives you the opportunity to undertake an accredited Teaching Certificate whilst carrying out an independent research project across a range of biological, medical and health sciences. For more information please visit

Funding Notes

Applications are invited from self-funded students. This project has a Band 1 fee. Details of our different fee bands can be found on our website View Website
Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities. The full Equality, diversity and inclusion statement can be found on the website View Website


1) Jani M, Yimer BB, Sheppard T, Lunt M, Dixon WG. Time trends and prescribing patterns of opioid drugs in UK primary care patients with non-cancer pain: a retrospective cohort study. PLOS Medicine. 2020. Oct 15;17(10):e1003270.
2) Jani M, Dixon WG. Are opioids just an American problem? BMJ 2018 Dec 6;359:j5514.
3) Costello R, Birlie B, Roads P, Jani M, Dixon WG. Glucocorticoid use is associated with an increased risk of hypertension. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2020; Rheumatology (Oxford). 2020 Jun 27:keaa209. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keaa209.
4) Langan SM, Schmidt SA, Wing K, Ehrenstein V, Dixon WG et al. The reporting of studies conducted using observational routinely collected health data statement for pharmacoepidemiology (RECORD-PE). BMJ. 2018 Nov 14;363:k3532.
5) Bourke A, Dixon WG et al. Incorporating patient generated health data into pharmacoepidemiological research. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2020 Dec;29(12):1540-1549. doi: 10.1002/pds.5169.

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