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      Long-term opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain: unproven efficacy and neglected safety?

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          Abstract

          Background

          For the past 30 years, opioids have been used to treat chronic nonmalignant pain. This study tests the following hypotheses: (1) there is no strong evidence-based foundation for the conclusion that long-term opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain is effective; and (2) the main problem associated with the safety of such treatment – assessment of the risk of addiction – has been neglected.

          Methods

          Scientometric analysis of the articles representing clinical research in this area was performed to assess (1) the quality of presented evidence (type of study); and (2) the duration of the treatment phase. The sufficiency of representation of addiction was assessed by counting the number of articles that represent (1) editorials; (2) articles in the top specialty journals; and (3) articles with titles clearly indicating that the addiction-related safety is involved (topic-in-title articles).

          Results

          Not a single randomized controlled trial with opioid treatment lasting >3 months was found. All studies with a duration of opioid treatment ≥6 months (n = 16) were conducted without a proper control group. Such studies cannot provide the consistent good-quality evidence necessary for a strong clinical recommendation. There were profound differences in the number of addiction articles related specifically to chronic nonmalignant pain patients and to opioid addiction in general. An inadequate number of chronic pain-related publications were observed with all three types of counted articles: editorials, articles in the top specialty journals, and topic-in-title articles.

          Conclusion

          There is no strong evidence-based foundation for the conclusion that long-term opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain is effective. The above identified signs indicating neglect of addiction associated with the opioid treatment of chronic nonmalignant pain were present.

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          Most cited references 254

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          Clinical guidelines for the use of chronic opioid therapy in chronic noncancer pain.

          Use of chronic opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain has increased substantially. The American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine commissioned a systematic review of the evidence on chronic opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain and convened a multidisciplinary expert panel to review the evidence and formulate recommendations. Although evidence is limited, the expert panel concluded that chronic opioid therapy can be an effective therapy for carefully selected and monitored patients with chronic noncancer pain. However, opioids are also associated with potentially serious harms, including opioid-related adverse effects and outcomes related to the abuse potential of opioids. The recommendations presented in this document provide guidance on patient selection and risk stratification; informed consent and opioid management plans; initiation and titration of chronic opioid therapy; use of methadone; monitoring of patients on chronic opioid therapy; dose escalations, high-dose opioid therapy, opioid rotation, and indications for discontinuation of therapy; prevention and management of opioid-related adverse effects; driving and work safety; identifying a medical home and when to obtain consultation; management of breakthrough pain; chronic opioid therapy in pregnancy; and opioid-related policies. Safe and effective chronic opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain requires clinical skills and knowledge in both the principles of opioid prescribing and on the assessment and management of risks associated with opioid abuse, addiction, and diversion. Although evidence is limited in many areas related to use of opioids for chronic noncancer pain, this guideline provides recommendations developed by a multidisciplinary expert panel after a systematic review of the evidence.
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            Opioids in chronic non-cancer pain: systematic review of efficacy and safety.

            Opioids are used increasingly for chronic non-cancer pain. Controversy exists about their effectiveness and safety with long-term use. We analysed available randomised, placebo-controlled trials of WHO step 3 opioids for efficacy and safety in chronic non-cancer pain. The Oxford Pain Relief Database (1950-1994) and Medline, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library were searched until September 2003. Inclusion criteria were randomised comparisons of WHO step 3 opioids with placebo in chronic non-cancer pain. Double-blind studies reporting on pain intensity outcomes using validated pain scales were included. Fifteen randomised placebo-controlled trials were included. Four investigations with 120 patients studied intravenous opioid testing. Eleven studies (1025 patients) compared oral opioids with placebo for four days to eight weeks. Six of the 15 included trials had an open label follow-up of 6-24 months. The mean decrease in pain intensity in most studies was at least 30% with opioids and was comparable in neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain. About 80% of patients experienced at least one adverse event, with constipation (41%), nausea (32%) and somnolence (29%) being most common. Only 44% of 388 patients on open label treatments were still on opioids after therapy for between 7 and 24 months. The short-term efficacy of opioids was good in both neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain conditions. However, only a minority of patients in these studies went on to long-term management with opioids. The small number of selected patients and the short follow-ups do not allow conclusions concerning problems such as tolerance and addiction.
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              A flood of opioids, a rising tide of deaths.

               Susan Okie (2010)
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                1178-7090
                2013
                04 July 2013
                : 6
                : 513-529
                Affiliations
                Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative, and Pain Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Igor Kissin Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street, MRB 611, Boston, MA 02115, USA, Tel +1 617 732 5052, Fax +1 617 734 0682, Email kissin@ 123456zeus.bwh.harvard.edu
                Article
                jpr-6-513
                10.2147/JPR.S47182
                3712997
                23874119
                © 2013 Kissin, publisher and licensee Dove Medical Press Ltd

                This is an Open Access article which permits unrestricted noncommercial use, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Original Research

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