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Assessment, stratification, and monitoring of the risk for prescription opioid misuse and abuse in the primary care setting

James Brown, MD, Beatrice Setnik, PhD, Keung Lee, MD, PhD, Linda Wase, MD, Carl L. Roland, PharmD, Jody M. Cleveland, MS, Sherry Siegel, MD, Nathaniel Katz, MD, MS


Objectives: To evaluate potential for and incidence of aberrant drug-related behaviors among patients with chronic, moderate-to-severe pain in a primary care setting and to determine investigator compliance with universal precautions (UP) approach to pain management.
Design: Open label, multicenter.
Setting: Primary care centers (N = 281) across the United States.
Patients: Opioid naïve and opioid experienced with chronic, moderate-to-severe pain (N = 1,487).
Interventions: Morphine sulfate extended-release capsules for ≤4 months. Tools comprising UP approach were treatment agreement, card for obtaining/tracking prescriptions, Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients with Pain®-Revised questionnaire, pill counts, pain-patient follow-up tool, investigator assessment/plan, and urine drug screens (UDSs).
Outcome measures: Proportion of patients at low, moderate, and high risk of opioid misuse/abuse based on prespecified criteria and investigator judgment, proportion of patients with aberrant drug-related behaviors, and proportion of investigators compliant with UP approach.
Results: Patients were primarily white (87 percent), women (57 percent); mean age, 53 years (range, 21-92 years). At baseline, 47 percent were considered low risk for opioid misuse/abuse, 52 percent moderate, and 1 percent high. UDSs were positive for illicit/nonprescribed drugs in a proportion of patients throughout the study. Overall, 64 percent of investigators were compliant with major components of UP approach in ≥75 percent of their patients. However, there was a tendency for investigators to assign risk levels for opioid misuse/abuse as lower than protocol specified.
Conclusions: Most patients in these primary care study centers were categorized as at least moderate risk for opioid misuse/abuse at baseline. Most primary care investigators complied with the UP approach to pain management and risk assessment. The completion of the brief training and clinical use of the tools during the study led to retained behavior change, but there was a tendency for investigators to assign lower risk levels than those that were protocol-specified, suggesting a need for better understanding of factors influencing investigator decisions.


drug abuse, illicit drugs, morphine, opioid analgesics, primary care

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