GPs are changing their opioid prescribing

More than 40% of Australian GPs who have recently met with an NPS MedicineWise educational visitor for the current program on ‘Opioids, chronic pain and the bigger picture’ and responded to an evaluation survey say they will change their practice as a result of the program, according to preliminary evaluation figures released today.

The new figures coincide with the publication of an opioid tapering algorithm and news article supporting GPs and other health professionals to prepare a tapering plan with their patients who take an opioid for chronic non-cancer pain.

Around 6,300 GPs have been visited so far around the country as part of the NPS MedicineWise educational program, discussing the latest evidence and guidelines on opioid use in chronic non-cancer pain.

GPs were asked to respond to a post-visit survey on how the visit had affected their practice in relation to opioids. Of the 721 GPs who have responded to date:

  • 42% said they will change their practice overall regarding the use of opioids for chronic non-cancer pain
  • 18% will no longer prescribe opioids as a first step for chronic non-cancer pain
  • 52% will start developing and implementing a clear plan with patients when starting an opioid trial
  • 38% will start assessing the harms and benefits of opioids to identify patients who will benefit from tapering opioids.

“It is really positive to see the feedback and know how our work is making a difference to how opioids are being used to treat chronic non-cancer pain,” said Ms Rawa Osman, pharmacist and clinical lead for the NPS MedicineWise opioids program.

“Every day in Australia there are 3 deaths and 150 hospitalisations due to pharmaceutical opioids, and reducing unnecessary prescription opioid use is an important part of solving this complex problem.”

The new algorithm and news article about tapering opioids recommend health professionals take a 5 step approach: explore the patient’s expectations, review the pain management plan, develop a tapering plan, discuss and manage withdrawal symptoms and, if in doubt, seek support.

“We have received very positive feedback about our resources and the discussions we have had with GPs about tapering opioids. These tapering resources are now available online for all GPs and other prescribers to use,” said Ms Osman.

To access the complete suite of resources for the current program ‘Opioids, chronic pain and the bigger picture’, go to www.nps.org.au/professionals/opioids-chronic-pain#resources

To book an educational visit on the opioids program, visit nps.org.au or email [email protected].

 

Media enquiries

Matthew Harris, NPS MedicineWise Communications & PR adviser: (02) 8217 9229, 0419 618 365 or [email protected]

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines, medical tests and other health technologies. We receive funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.