Opioid safety recommendations in adult palliative medicine: a North American Delphi expert consensus

Publication type
Journal article
Lau J, Mazzotta P, Whelan C, Abdelaal M, Clarke H, Furlan AD, Smith A, Husain A, Fainsinger R, Hui D, Sunderji N, Zimmermann C
Date published
2022 Jan 01
BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care
Open Access?

OBJECTIVES: Despite the escalating public health emergency related to opioid-related deaths in Canada and the USA, opioids are essential for palliative care (PC) symptom management. Opioid safety is the prevention, identification and management of opioid-related harms. The Delphi technique was used to develop expert consensus recommendations about how to promote opioid safety in adults receiving PC in Canada and the USA. METHODS: Through a Delphi process comprised of two rounds, USA and Canadian panellists in PC, addiction and pain medicine developed expert consensus recommendations. Elected Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) board members then rated how important it is for PC physicians to be aware of each consensus recommendation. They also identified high-priority research areas from the topics that did not achieve consensus in Round 2. RESULTS: The panellists (Round 1, n=23; Round 2, n=22) developed a total of 130 recommendations from the two rounds about the following six opioid-safety related domains: (1) General principles; (2) Measures for healthcare institution and PC training and clinical programmes; (3) Patient and caregiver assessments; (4) Prescribing practices; (5) Monitoring; and (6) Patients and caregiver education. Fifty-nine topics did not achieve consensus and were deemed potential areas of research. From these results, CSPCP identified 43 high-priority recommendations and 8 high-priority research areas. CONCLUSIONS: Urgent guidance about opioid safety is needed to address the opioid crisis. These consensus recommendations can promote safer opioid use, while recognising the importance of these medications for PC symptom management