Researchers at the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Evaluation of Interventions and NIHR Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) West have found that a new pilot service in South Gloucestershire is helping patients with chronic pain reduce their use of prescription opioid painkillers. The findings from this research, are set out in an academic paper.
Chronic pain (also known as long-term pain) refers to pain that has lasted longer than three months. Prescriptions of opioid painkillers, such as morphine, tramadol and codeine, have increased by more than 60 per cent in the last 10 years but there's little evidence that such painkillers are effective in treating this type of pain. Long term use of these medications can result in dependency and increased risk of death from overdose.
The evaluation of the South Gloucestershire opioid and pain review service found that 35 per cent of patients who used the service reduced their opioid dose while a further nine per cent stopped taking opioids completely.
Interviews with patients and service providers found that having dedicated project workers who developed bespoke pain-management plans for each patient resulted in improved wellbeing and they appreciated the emphasis on using pain management strategies in addition to reductions in their dosage of medication.
Lauren Scott, Senior Research Associate at the NIHR ARC WEST and one of the lead researchers, said:
“Public Health England’s prescribed medicines review recommends improving support for patients on opioid painkillers to manage their pain more effectively and reduce the risk of developing dependence. Our evaluation of the pilot service in South Gloucestershire reinforces this recommendation and suggests that it is possible for patients with chronic pain on long-term opioids to be successfully managed in GP practices.
“Our findings highlight both the importance of the project worker and the value of running a flexible, individually tailored service. We evaluated a small group of patients, so larger studies are required to be sure of the effects. However, we hope our findings will inform the development of similar services in the future.”