Chronic Pain Relief: CMAJ Study Evaluates Predictors of Fatal and Non-Fatal Overdoses Interview with:
Li Wang, PhD
Associate professor
Department of Anesthesia
Michael G. DeGroote Institute of Pain Research and Care
McMaster University
Ontario, Canada What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Chronic pain affects one in five people globally and is commonly treated with opioids. Unfortunately, opioid use may lead to serious harms including fatal and nonfatal overdose. Identifying predictors of opioid overdose may improve the shared decision-making for clinicians and patients when considering a trial of opioids for chronic pain. Although there have been previous reviews looking at predictors of opioid overdose following prescription for chronic pain, they have important limitations.

Our systematic review included 28 studies and 23,963,716 patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain that reported the associations of 103 predictors with opioid overdose. The baseline risk of non-fatal overdose was 1 in 500, and the risk of fatal overdose was 1 in 1000.

We identified 10 predictors, supported by moderate-to-high certainty evidence, that increased the risk of opioid overdose by 2-fold or more, including prescription of high-dose opioids (≥90mg morphine equivalent/day), fentanyl prescription, multiple opioid prescribers, use of multiple pharmacies, history of overdose, current substance use disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, other mental illness, or pancreatitis. The absolute risks of development of opioid overdose in patients with the predictor range from 4-12 per 1000 for non-fatal overdose and 2-6 per 1000 for fatal overdose, respectively.

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Novel Protocol Reduced Use of Opioid Pain Relievers After Knee and Shoulder Surgeries Interview with:
Nicole Simunovic, MSc
On behalf of the NO PAin Principal Investigators What is the background for this study?

Response: Orthopaedic surgeons prescribe more opioids than any other type of surgeon in North America. Opioids have the potential to be highly addictive and can cause serious harm or even death if taken in excess. The goal of our clinical study was to determine if an opioid sparing approach to postoperative pain management was safe and effective in patients undergoing arthroscopic knee and shoulder surgery.

Medical Cannabis May Be Helpful For Pain Relief in a Minority of People with Chronic Pain, But Will Not Be Effective For Most Interview with:
Associate Professor
Associate Director
Michael G. DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research
McMaster University Medical Centre
Ontario, Canada  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Our focused clinical practice guideline was informed by 4 systematic reviews exploring benefits and harms of medical cannabis for chronic pain, the potential for cannabis to help people who live with pain to reduce their use of opioids, and patients values & preferences regarding medical cannabis for chronic pain. We found that non-inhaled medical cannabis provided small to very small improvements in pain relief, physical functioning and sleep quality compared to placebo, but did not improve mental functioning, role functioning or social functioning. Use of medical cannabis, versus placebo, also caused small increases in the risk of several transient, moderate, side effects, such as impaired attention, nausea, and drowsiness, and a larger increase in the risk of dizziness.

There was insufficient evidence to inform the risk of serious adverse events, such as motor vehicle accidents, cannabis use disorder (addiction), or suicide. We also found that patients’ attitudes towards medical cannabis show considerable variation, meaning that when presented with the same evidence different patients are likely to make different decisions about embarking on a trial of medical cannabis. Due to the close balance between modest benefits and harms, and high variability among patients’ attitudes, we made a weak recommendation to consider a trial of medical cannabis for people living with chronic pain who had not achieved sufficient relief with standard care.

A weak recommendation means that clinicians should provide chronic pain patients with the evidence for benefits and harms and help them to make a decision consistent with their patient’s values and preferences.

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