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Primary care survey of the value and effectiveness of the Washington State Opioid Dosing Guideline

Josiah S. Morse, MPH, Hal Stockbridge, MD, MPH, Kathleen B. Egan, MPH, Jaymie Mai, PharmD, Thomas Wickizer, PhD, Gary M. Franklin, MD, MPH


Purpose: To evaluate the acceptability and usefulness of the Washington State Opioid Dosing Guideline (Guideline) developed for primary care providers for the treatment of chronic noncancer pain. The Guideline contains innovative tools, such as an online dosing calculator, and recommendations to assist providers, including a “yellow flag” threshold of 120 mg/d morphine equivalent dose (MED) at which specialty consultation is recommended.
Methods: Using a convenience sample, an anonymous web-based survey was conducted among primary care providers in Washington (WA) state. Physician/administrative leaders in four regional and two statewide healthcare systems and associations distributed the electronic links to primary care providers in their organizations.
Results: Six hundred fifty-five (n) providers completed the survey representing 20 percent of the total number contacted. The majority (89 percent) of providers in this sample treat chronic pain patients, and more than half (54 percent) have frequent concerns about addiction, tolerance, and diversion. Forty-five percent had read and applied the Guideline in their practice. The majority of these providers found the Guideline to be helpful and 86 percent find the threshold of 120 mg/d MED dose reasonable or too high. Some key best practices such as tracking pain and function using structured instruments and use of urine drug testing are infrequently used.
Conclusions: Results from this survey suggest that the recommendations and tools given in the Guideline, including the threshold of 120 mg/day MED dose, are acceptable and useful to a large majority of primary care providers in WA state. Substantial additions to the Guideline based on needs identified in this survey were added in June 2010 and wider dissemination is planned.


opioid analgesics, drug therapy, intractable pain, family physician, physician’s practice patterns, practice guideline, cross-sectional survey

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