Self-reported practices in opioid management of chronic noncancer pain: an updated survey of Canadian family physicians

Publication type
Journal article
Furlan AD, Díaz S, CarolA, Macdougall P, Allen MJ
Date published
2020 Oct 01
Journal of Clinical Medicine
Open Access?

Chronic pain affects one in five Canadians, and opioids continue to be prescribed to 12.3% of the Canadian population. A survey of family physicians was conducted in 2010 as a baseline prior to the release of the Canadian Opioid Guideline. We repeated the same survey with minor modifications to reflect the updated 2017 opioid prescribing guideline. The online survey was distributed in all provinces and territories in both English and French. There were 265 responses from May 2018 to October 2019, 55% of respondents were male, 16% had advanced training in pain management, 51% had more than 20 years in practice, 54% wrote five or fewer prescriptions of opioids per month, and 58% were confident in their skills in prescribing opioids. Of the 11 knowledge questions, only two were correctly selected by more than 80% of the respondents. Twenty-nine physicians (11%) do not prescribe opioids, and the main factor affecting their decisions were concerns about long-term adverse effects and lack of evidence for effectiveness of opioids in chronic noncancer pain. Of the 12 guideline-concordant practices, only two were performed regularly by 90% or more of the respondents: explain potential harms of long-term opioid therapy and beginning dose of less than 50 mg of morphine equivalent daily. This survey represents a small proportion of family physicians in Canada and its generalizability is limited. However, we identified a number of opioid-related and guideline-specific gaps, as well as barriers and enablers to prescribing opioids and adhering to the guideline