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An evaluation of the predictive validity of the Pain Medication Questionnaire with a heterogeneous group of patients with chronic pain

Leah S. Dowling, MS, Robert J. Gatchel, PhD, Laura L. Adams, PhD, Anna W. Stowell, PhD, Dana Bernstein, MS, PhD


The Pain Medication Questionnaire (PMQ), initially developed by Adams et al. (J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004; 27: 440-459), is a 26-item self-report assessment to screen for opioid-medication misuse. The PMQ has demonstrated good reliability and validity, and was predictive of early termination from treatment and identified patients who demonstrated maximal benefit from interdisciplinary treatment (Holmes et al. Pain Pract. 2006; 6: 74-88). This study was designed to further evaluate the validity of the PMQ by exploring whether the initial PMQ score would accurately predict the development of aberrant opioid-medication use behaviors relative to specific behavioral indices (ie, request for early refills, use of a medication agreement) and a physician rating of medication misuse behaviors. Patients were grouped according to the initial score on the PMQ based on the median score of 25. Patients with higher PMQ (H-PMQ) scores reported greater levels of perceived disability and decreased physical and mental functioning. Similar to earlier studies, total scores on the PMQ were moderately correlated with initial measures of physical and psychosocial functioning, and observed problematic medication use behaviors observed by physicians during evaluation. Furthermore, excessively high PMQ scores (≥30) were significantly associated with the need to use a medication agreement or requests for early refills. Five patients were identified from the H-PMQ group who demonstrated problematic opioid-medication use that fell outside of the realm of just early refill requests. Thus, although a PMQ total score ≥25 is indicative of problematic use, a score ≥30 suggests that a patient should be closely monitored when prescribed an opioid medication. Overall, this study again demonstrated that a patient’s self-report is significantly correlated with problematic behaviors observed by physicians. Therefore, when utilized in a busy clinic setting, the PMQ will aide in the identification of specific problematic behaviors and beliefs at the outset of treatment that may hinder successful treatment of a patient’s pain condition.


Pain Medication Questionnaire, chronic pain, opioid medication, misuse/abuse

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