Opioid Prescribing

A Systematic Review and Critical Appraisal of Guidelines for Chronic Pain

Published in: Annals of Internal Medicine, v. 160, no. 1, Jan. 2014, p. 38-47

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2014

by Teryl K. Nuckols, Laura Anderson, Ioana Popescu, Allison Diamant, Brian Doyle, Paul D. Di Capua, Roger Chou

Read More

Access further information on this document at Annals of Internal Medicine

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

BACKGROUND: Deaths due to prescription opioid overdoses have increased dramatically. High-quality guidelines could help clinicians mitigate risks associated with opioid therapy. PURPOSE: To evaluate the quality and content of guidelines on the use of opioids for chronic pain. DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, National Guideline Clearinghouse, specialty society Web sites, and international guideline clearinghouses (searched in July 2013). STUDY SELECTION: Guidelines published between January 2007 and July 2013 addressing the use of opioids for chronic pain in adults were selected. Guidelines on specific settings, populations, and conditions were excluded. DATA EXTRACTION: Guidelines and associated systematic reviews were evaluated using the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation II (AGREE II) instrument and A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR), respectively, and recommendations for mitigating opioid-related risks were compared. DATA SYNTHESIS: Thirteen guidelines met selection criteria. Overall AGREE II scores were 3.00 to 6.20 (on a scale of 1 to 7). The AMSTAR ratings were poor to fair for 10 guidelines. Two received high AGREE II and AMSTAR scores. Most guidelines recommend that clinicians avoid doses greater than 90 to 200 mg of morphine equivalents per day, have additional knowledge to prescribe methadone, recognize risks of fentanyl patches, titrate cautiously, and reduce doses by at least 25% to 50% when switching opioids. Guidelines also agree that opioid risk assessment tools, written treatment agreements, and urine drug testing can mitigate risks. Most recommendations are supported by observational data or expert consensus. LIMITATION: Exclusion of non–English-language guidelines and reliance on published information. CONCLUSION: Despite limited evidence and variable development methods, recent guidelines on chronic pain agree on several opioid risk mitigation strategies, including upper dosing thresholds; cautions with certain medications; attention to drug–drug and drug–disease interactions; and use of risk assessment tools, treatment agreements, and urine drug testing. Future research should directly examine the effectiveness of opioid risk mitigation strategies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit www.rand.org/about/principles.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.