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Papers of the Week

2022 Dec

Ann Med



Primary care management of Long-Term opioid therapy.


Coffin PO, Martinez RS, Wylie B, Ryder B
Ann Med. 2022 Dec; 54(1):2451-2469.
PMID: 36111417.


The United States underwent massive expansion in opioid prescribing from 1990-2010, followed by opioid stewardship initiatives and reduced prescribing. Opioids are no longer considered first-line therapy for most chronic pain conditions and clinicians should first seek alternatives in most circumstances. Patients who have been treated with opioids long-term should be managed differently, sometimes even continued on opioids due to physiologic changes wrought by long-term opioid therapy and documented risks of discontinuation. When providing long-term opioid therapy, clinicians should document opioid stewardship measures, including assessments, consents, medication reconciliation, and offering naloxone, along with the rationale to continue opioid therapy. Clinicians should screen regularly for opioid use disorder and arrange for or directly provide treatment. In particular, buprenorphine can be highly useful for co-morbid pain and opioid use disorder. Addressing other substance use disorders, as well as preventive health related to substance use, should be a priority in patients with opioid use disorder. Patient-centered practices, such as shared decision-making and attending to related facets of a patient's life that influence health outcomes, should be implemented at all points of care.Key messagesAlthough opioids are no longer considered first-line therapy for most chronic pain, management of patients already taking long-term opioid therapy must be individualised.Documentation of opioid stewardship measures can help to organise opioid prescribing and protect clinicians from regulatory scrutiny.Management of resultant opioid use disorder should include provision of medications, most often buprenorphine, and several additional screening and preventive measures.