CONTEXT: Patients with cancer face symptoms due to disease and treatment, and pain is common and complex. The opioid crisis may complicate patients' and clinicians' experiences of managing pain in cancer care.
OBJECTIVES: In our study of perceptions and experiences with palliative care at an outpatient cancer center, we examined communication around symptom management throughout cancer care, and pain and its management emerged as particularly salient. The objective of this paper is to describe, from the perspectives of patients, caregivers, and oncology healthcare professionals, the role of palliative care in navigating the complicated dynamics of pain management amidst the opioid crisis.
METHODS: A qualitative descriptive study with grounded theory components was designed to investigate experiences with and perceptions of specialist palliative care and symptom management, including pain. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed, and focused coding identified themes related to pain and pain management from all three perspectives.
RESULTS: 44 patients, caregivers, and non-palliative care healthcare professionals completed interviews. Patients with cancer and their caregivers had many concerns about pain management and were specifically concerned about opioid use and stigma. For patients, palliative care improved pain management and helped to de-stigmatize appropriate pain management. Oncology clinicians reported that partnering with palliative care facilitated complex pain management and also provided moral support around difficult opioid recommendations for patients.
CONCLUSION: Palliative care offers the potential to uniquely support both patients and other oncology professionals in optimally navigating the complexity around pain management for cancer care in the midst of the opioid crisis.
PURPOSE: Little information exists on factors that predict opioid misuse in oncology. We adopted the Screener and Opioid Assessment for Patients With Pain-Short Form (SOAPP-SF) and toxicology testing to assess for opioid misuse risk. The primary objective was to (1) identify characteristics associated with a high-risk SOAPP-SF score and noncompliant toxicology test, and (2) determine SOAPP-SF utility to predict noncompliant toxicology tests.
METHODS: From July 1, 2017, to December 31, 2017, new patients completed the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), SOAPP-SF, and narcotic use agreement. Toxicology test results were collected at subsequent visits.
RESULTS: Of 223 distinct patients, 96% completed SOAPP-SF. Mean age was 61 ± 12.7 years, 58% were female, 68% were White, and 28% were Black. Eighty-three eligible patients (38%) completed toxicology testing. Younger age, male sex, and increased ESAS depression scores were associated with high-risk SOAPP-SF scores. Smoking habit was associated with an aberrant test. An SOAPP-SF score >= 3 predicted a noncompliant toxicology test.
CONCLUSION: Male sex, young age, and higher ESAS depression score were associated with a high SOAPP-SF score. Smoking habit was associated with an aberrant test. An SOAPP-SF of >= 3 (sensitivity, 0.74; specificity, 0.64), not >= 4, was predictive of an aberrant test; however, performance characteristics were decreased from those published by Inflexxion, for >= 4 (sensitivity, 0.86; specificity, 0.67). The specificity warrants caution in falsely labeling patients. The SOAPP-SF may aid in meeting National Comprehensive Cancer Network recommendations to screen oncology patients for opioid misuse.
Background: Patients with cancer-related pain use opioids for nociceptive pain, while gabapentinoids are common to treat neuropathic pain. The simultaneous use of opioids with gabapentinoids has been associated with an increased risk of opioid-related death.
Objectives: Determine the frequency of combined use of gabapentinoids among patients receiving opioids for cancer-related pain. We also examined if concomitant use of opioids and gabapentinoids together was associated with increased scores of fatigue and drowsiness on the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) compared to patients on opioids.
Design: Retrospective study of patients on opioids and opioids plus gabapentinoids at their third visit to the outpatient Supportive Care Center.
Results: We found that 48% (508/1059) of patients were on opioids. Of these patients, 51% (257/508) were on opioids only, and 49% (251/508) were on opioids plus gabapentinoids. The median (interquartile range [IQR]) morphine equivalent daily dose for patients on opioids was 75 (45, 138) mg, and opioids plus gabapentinoids was 68 (38, 150) mg (p = 0.94). The median (IQR) gabapentinoid equivalent daily dose was 900 (300, 1200) mg. The median (IQR) for ESAS-fatigue in patients on opioids was 5 (3, 7), and opioids plus gabapentinoids was 5 (3, 7) (p = 0.27). The median (IQR) for ESAS-drowsiness in patients on opioids was 3 (0, 5), and opioids plus gabapentinoids was 3 (0, 6) (p = 0.11).
Conclusion: Almost 50% of advanced cancer patients receiving opioids for pain were exposed to gabapentinoids. Maximal efforts should be made to minimize potential complications from the concomitant use of opioids with gabapentinoids.
Introduction : En France, la méthadone est autorisée uniquement comme traitement de substitution. Elle peut être utilisée pour les douleurs liées au cancer. Le but de cette étude est d’évaluer l’efficacité et les effets secondaires de la méthadone dans cette indication.
Méthode : Il s’agit d’une étude rétrospective de janvier 2010 à février 2011, incluant tous les patients recevant de la méthadone pour la première fois. Le soulagement était considéré comme obtenu si l’intensité de la douleur était inférieure ou égale à 3/10 sur l’échelle d’évaluation numérique (EN) ou inférieure ou égale à 30/100 sur une échelle visuelle analogique (Eva), à j7 et j28. Les effets secondaires et leur persistance ont été explorés pendant l’instauration, à j7 et j28.
Résultats : Vingt-deux patients ont été inclus. Vingt patients ont été évalués au 7e jour, dix-huit patients à 28e. À j7, seize patients (80 %) étaient soulagés et onze (61 %) au 28e jour. Peu de patients ont présenté des effets indésirables : 8 patients (40 %) à j7 et 3 (16,7 %) à j28.
Conclusion : La méthadone est un traitement utile contre la douleur cancéreuse, en particulier pour la douleur cancéreuse rebelle et complexe.
This study aimed to analyze the trends of opioid use disorders, cannabis use disorders, and palliative care among hospitalized patients with gastrointestinal cancer and to identify their associated factors.
We analyzed the National Inpatient Sample data from 2005 to 2014 and included hospitalized patients with gastrointestinal cancers. The trends of hospital palliative care and opioid or cannabis use disorders were analyzed using the compound annual growth rates (CAGR) with Rao-Scott correction for 2 tests. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were performed to identify the associated factors.
From 2005 to 2014, among 4,364,416 hospitalizations of patients with gastrointestinal cancer, the average annual rates of opioid and cannabis use disorders were 0.4% (n = 19,520), and 0.3% (n = 13,009), respectively. The utilization rate of hospital palliative care was 6.2% (n = 268,742). They all sharply increased for 10 years (CAGR = 9.61%, 22.2%, and 21.51%, respectively). The patients with a cannabis use disorder were over 4 times more likely to have an opioid use disorder (Odds ratios, OR = 4.029; P < .001). Hospital palliative care was associated with higher opioid use disorder rates, higher in-hospital mortality, shorter length of hospital stay, and lower hospital charges. (OR = 1.527, 9.980, B = -0.054 and -0.386; each of P < .001).
The temporal trends of opioid use disorders and hospital palliative care use among patients with gastrointestinal cancer increased from 2005 to 2014, which is mostly attributed to patients with a higher risk of in-hospital mortality. Cannabis use disorders were associated with opioid use disorders. Palliative care was associated with both reduced lengths of stay and hospital charge.
Context: Limited access to opioids for cancer patients has been reported as a potential unintended consequence of recent regulations restricting opioid use and prescribing practices. To our knowledge, there are a limited number of peer-reviewed studies that evaluate cancer patients’ perceived difficulties when filling their opioid prescription. To understand these difficulties, we surveyed patients receiving opioids in our outpatient Supportive Care Center (SCC).
Objectives: The primary objective of this study was to evaluate cancer patients’ perceptions of overall difficulties when filling their opioid prescription. Secondary objectives included determining associations between patient characteristics and difficulty, and comparing difficulty between filling opioid and non-opioid prescriptions.
Methods: Cancer patients receiving opioids that had been seen two times or more at our SCC were asked to complete a survey. The information collected included patient demographics, clinical characteristics, and patients’ experiences filling their opioid prescription.
Results: The patients’ median age was 60 years; 54% were female and 69% were white. Forty-four patients (32%) reported that they have experienced difficulty filling their opioid prescription. More than 25% of those 44 patients perceived difficulty from interactions with the pharmacy/pharmacist. Forty-six patients (33%) reported more difficulty filling their opioid prescriptions than filling their non-opioid prescriptions.
Conclusions: This study provides evidence that patients with cancer visiting our SCC perceived difficulties obtaining their opioid prescriptions. The results suggest that negative interactions with the pharmacy/pharmacist contributes to their perceived difficulty. Additional research is needed to further characterize the contributors of the difficulties cancer patients face in filling their opioid prescriptions.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has brought a tsunami of suffering that is devastating even well resourced countries. The disease has wreaked havoc on health systems and generated immense losses for families, communities, and economies, in addition to the growing death toll. Patients, caregivers, health-care providers, and health systems can benefit from the extensive knowledge of the palliative care community and by taking heed of long-standing admonitions to improve access to essential medicines, particularly opioids for the relief of breathlessness and pain.
Opioid addiction, if not well diagnosed and treated, can be a significant challenge for optimal pain management even in cancer patients. To date there is no definitive pharmacological standard of care for treating addiction, especially in this setting of patients. We present a clinical case series of three opioid-addicted advanced cancer patients, effectively treated with haloperidol, a well-known first-generation typical antipsychotic.
This article will focus on the following objectives specific to end-of-life care for professional case management:
Discuss recent industry topics that influence care processes.
Explore the opioid epidemic's impact on pain management.
Identify terms associated with end-of-life and life-limiting care.
Understand types of advance directives and care defining tools.
Define the purpose of psychiatric advance directives.
Discuss the shifting diagnostic face.
Discuss how inclusion manifests for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ) population.
Explore challenges working through adolescent decision making and treatment.
Review regulation and reimbursement shifts across the industry.
Identify the use of artificial intelligence.
Discuss the value of ethics committees in health care organizations.
Define the Four Cs of Care Considerations.
Identify ethical principles for consideration by the workforce.
Background/objectives: Opioids relieve symptoms in terminal care. We studied opioid underuse in long-term care facilities, defined as residents without opioid prescription despite pain and/or dyspnoea, 3 days prior to death.
Design and setting: In a proportionally stratified randomly selected sample of long-term care facilities in six European Union countries, nurses and long-term care facility management completed structured after-death questionnaires within 3 months of residents’ death.
Measurements: Nurses assessed pain/dyspnoea with Comfort Assessment in Dying with Dementia scale and checked opioid prescription by chart review. We estimated opioid underuse per country and per symptom and calculated associations of opioid underuse by multilevel, multivariable analysis.
Results: nurses’ response rate was 81.6%, 95.7% for managers. Of 901 deceased residents with pain/dyspnoea reported in the last week, 10.6% had dyspnoea, 34.4% had pain and 55.0% had both symptoms. Opioid underuse per country was 19.2% (95% confidence interval: 12.9–27.2) in the Netherlands, 25.2% (18.3–33.6) in Belgium, 29.3% (16.9–45.8) in England, 33.7% (26.2–42.2) in Finland, 64.6% (52.0–75.4) in Italy and 79.1% (71.2–85.3) in Poland (p < 0.001). Opioid underuse was 57.2% (33.0–78.4) for dyspnoea, 41.2% (95% confidence interval: 21.9–63.8) for pain and 37.4% (19.4–59.6) for both symptoms (p = 0.013). Odds of opioid underuse were lower (odds ratio: 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.20–0.54) when pain was assessed.
Conclusion: Opioid underuse differs between countries. Pain and dyspnoea should be formally assessed at the end-of-life and taken into account in physicians orders.
Les soins palliatifs sont une approche multidisciplinaire pour améliorer la qualité de vie des patients et leurs familles à tous les stades d’une maladie grave. Cette approche est accomplie en gérant les symptômes pénibles tels que la douleur et la dyspnée. La dyspnée réfractaire se caractérise par une difficulté respiratoire persistante au repos ou avec un effort minimal malgré un traitement optimal de la maladie sous-jacente. L’utilisation d’opioïdes a été bien documentée dans ce contexte ; cependant, l’hésitation persiste lors de la prescription d’opioïdes jusqu’aux étapes terminales de la maladie. Ce travail décrit les preuves actuelles de l’utilisation des opioïdes pour le traitement de la dyspnée en soins palliatifs, les protocoles et les voies de leur administration.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Opioids are the only class of drug with the proven ability to control severe pain. The introduction of stringent opioid prescribing restrictions has inevitably impacted upon the ability of those prescribing opioids for advanced life-limited disease to practice as previously and could limit the supply of adequate pain relief to patients with cancer. This review considers the evidence that symptom management of patients with advanced cancer contributes to the "opioid problem" and whether there is adequate recognition of the risks involved.
RECENT FINDINGS: The literature suggests that the risk of opioid abuse is low in the palliative care population as is the risk of legal consequences for doctors prescribing opioids at the end of life. However, as many patients with cancer are living longer or surviving with chronic pain, palliative care physicians must be cognisant not only of the risks of long term opioid use but also of the risk of opioid misuse. Adherence to evidence or consensus-based guidelines is necessary to avoid inappropriate prescribing. In palliative care, it is appropriate not only to exercise a reasonable degree of opioid control and surveillance, primarily for the good of society, but also to ensure that the ability to treat pain in patients with advanced malignant disease is not compromised.
Opioids are an effective treatment for patients with intractable pain. Long-term administration of opioids for pain relief is being delivered by an increasing number of medical providers in the United States including primary care physicians and nonspecialists. One common complication of chronic opioid use is sleep-disordered breathing which can result in various morbidities as well as an increase in all-cause mortality. It is important for providers to understand the relationship between opioids and sleep-disordered breathing as well as methods to improve diagnosis and strategies for treatment. This review aims to update clinicians on the mechanism, diagnosis, and treatment of opioid-related sleep-disordered breathing in order to improve the quality of care for patients with chronic pain.
OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this quality improvement (QI) project was to improve the overall process of implementing continuous subcutaneous infusion of opioids (CSCIOs) at the West Palm Beach Veterans Affairs Medical Center and characterize their use in the hospice unit.
METHODS: A retrospective chart review from July 2014 to August 2017 was conducted to identify patients who had received CSCIO. Results were analyzed with descriptive statistics.The business philosphy, LEAN methodology "The 5 Whys" was utilized to identify the root causes for delayed infusion timeliness and corrections were implemented by August 2018. Follow-up retrospective time study completed from September 2018 to February 2019.
RESULTS: Of the 107 patients identified, 7 were excluded and 100 were reviewed. The mean age was 73 years, 94% male, and 86% Caucasian. A total of 55 veterans received morphine with an average final infusion rate of 2.5 mg/h. A total of 45 Veterans received hydromorphone with a final infusion rate of 1.3 mg/h. The average infusion duration until death was 5 days. Pharmacy verified 94 (94%) orders and nursing verified 55 (55%) orders within 1 hour (gold standard). Sixteen (16%) patients received CSCIO within 1 hour. The 5 Whys identified nursing order verification and pharmacy lack of visual STAT order notification for priority as the potential sources for infusion timeliness improvement. The follow-up time study confirmed improvement in pharmacy delivery time from 29% to 75% on time.
CONCLUSION: Pharmacist-led intervention directed to improve CSCIO processes in an inpatient hospice unit utilizing LEAN QI methodology increased timeliness of pharmacy CSCIO delivery.
Given the challenges of symptom management during hospice care, patients require responsive opioid prescribing. Within the context of the national opioid crisis, medication diversion in hospice is an increasing concern.
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At 35, Mr. J. was dying of an invasive pelvic sarcoma and had a tolerance to opioids. Despite his pain, he wanted to be present with his family and friends. When his physician broached the possibility of palliative sedation, he said, “We aren’t there yet.”
Aim: This audit was done to analyze the factors influencing the use of strong opioids in cancer patients receiving comprehensive palliative care from a tertiary institute.
Materials and Methods: Case records of patients registered for palliative care at our center in 3 months were retrospectively reviewed and followed up throughout the course of their illness. Demographic factors, prior treatments, social support system, analgesic use at registration, and use of radiation and adjuvant analgesics were recorded. Strong opioid use and their time of initiation were evaluated, and multivariate analysis was used to identify the factors correlating with the above.
Results: After registration, strong opioids were initiated in 16% of the patients. It was observed that patients younger than 55 years and those with visceral metastases and history of use of weak opioids at the time of registration had a higher probability of being started on strong opioids. Factors associated with a significantly longer strong opioid-free interval were having spouse as primary caregiver, presence of skeletal metastases, use of palliative radiotherapy, and low socioeconomic status.
Conclusion: It is certain that the use of strong opioids for adequate analgesia is a necessity for palliative-care patients. However, optimal utilization of adjunctive analgesic modalities, coupled with good supportive care, can minimize the requirement and duration of strong opioid use, especially in developing countries with limited access to specialist palliative care.
Pain in people with advanced cancer is prevalent. When a stable dose of opioids is established, people still experience episodic breakthrough pain for which dosing of an immediate release opioid is usually a proportion of the total daily dose. This multi-site, double blind, randomised trial tested three dose proportions (1/6, 1/8, 1/12 of total daily dose) in two blocks, each block with three dose proportions in random order (6 numbered bottles in total). When participants required opioid breakthrough doses and it was their first breakthrough dose for that study day, they took the next numbered bottle rather than their usual breakthrough dose. (Subsequent doses on that day reverted to their usual dose.) Eighty five people were randomised in this study of whom 81 took at least one dose and 73 (90%) took at least block one (one of each dose proportion). No dose was found to be optimal at 30 min with approximately one third of participants showing maximal reduction with each dose proportion. Median time to pain relief was 120 min. There were no differences in harms: drowsiness, confusion, nausea or vomiting at 30, 60 or 120 min. This adequately powered study did not show any difference with three dose proportions for reduction in pain intensity, time to pain relief, pain control on the subsequent day nor any difference in harms. From first principles, this suggests 1/12 the 24 hourly dose should be used as the lowest dose that delivers benefit. Future studies should include a placebo arm.
BACKGROUND: Opioid overdoses have reached epidemic levels in the United States and have clustered in Northeastern and "Rust Belt" states. Five Factor Model (FFM) personality traits also vary at the state level, with anger-prone traits clustered in the Northeast region. This study tested the hypothesis that state-level anger proneness would be associated with a greater increase in rates of opioid overdose death.
METHODS: This was a secondary analysis of state-level data on FFM traits, opioid overdose deaths, and other classes of preventable death. Robust mixed models tested whether change in rates of opioid overdose death from 2008 to 2016 was moderated by state-level anger proneness.
RESULTS: State-level anger proneness was significantly associated with greater increases in rates of opioid overdose deaths (B = 1.01, standard error = 0.19, P < .001, 95% confidence interval: 0.63-1.39). The slope of increase in opioid overdose death rates was 380% greater in anger-prone states and held after adjustment for potential confounders such as state-level prevalence of major depressive disorder, number of mental health facilities, and historical patterns of manufacturing decline. A similar pattern was observed between state-level anger proneness and benzodiazepine overdose deaths but was not significant for the latter after adjustment for potential confounders.
CONCLUSION: These findings suggest that states characterized as more anger prone have experienced greater increases in opioid overdose deaths.
Palliative care is seeing cancer patients earlier in the disease trajectory with a multitude of chronic issues. Chronic non-malignant pain (CNMP) in cancer patients is under-studied. In this prospective study, we examined the prevalence and management of CNMP in cancer patients seen at our supportive care clinic for consultation. We systematically characterized each pain type with the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and documented current treatments. The attending physician made the pain diagnoses according to the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) task force classification. Among 200 patients (mean age 60 years, 69% metastatic disease, 1-year survival of 77%), the median number of pain diagnosis was 2 (IQR 1-2); 67 (34%, 95% CI 28-41%) had a diagnosis of CNMP; 133 (67%) had cancer-related pain; and 52 (26%) had treatment-related pain. In total, 12/31 (39%) patients with only CNMP and 21/36 (58%) patients with CNMP and other pain diagnoses were on opioids. There was a total of 94 CNMP diagnoses among 67 patients, including 37 (39%) osteoarthritis and 20 (21%) lower back pain; 30 (32%) were treated with opioids. In summary, CNMP was common in the timely palliative care setting and many patients were on opioids. Our findings highlight the need to develop clinical guidelines for CNMP in cancer patients to standardize its management.