Patients missing out on opioid contracts

A study of 400 GPs, due to be presented at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs conference in Hobart this week, showed that only 12% of patients prescribed opioids for chronic non-cancer pain had a written medication agreement in accordance with Hunter New England Health opiate guidelines.

Lead author Dr Simon Holliday, a GP and addiction physician at the Albert Street Medical Centre in Taree, NSW, said his data suggested doctors failed to consistently provide such patient plans.

“You need to have a plan for a trial of opiates to see if it works or not, with information about not allowing phone requests for refills, and the fact that unless there’s a significant improvement in pain and function, the trial of opiates will be terminated,” he said.

Dr Holliday said GPs felt they lacked the training and did not get paid enough to put in the time and effort required for adherence to the guidelines.