The effectiveness and risks of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain: A systematic review for a national institutes of health pathways to prevention workshop

Roger Chou, Judith A. Turner, Emily B. Devine, Ryan N. Hansen, Sean D. Sullivan, Ian Blazina, Tracy Dana, Christina Bougatsos, Richard (Rick) Deyo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

571 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Increases in prescriptions of opioid medications for chronic pain have been accompanied by increases in opioid overdoses, abuse, and other harms and uncertainty about longterm effectiveness. Purpose: To evaluate evidence on the effectiveness and harms of long-term (>3 months) opioid therapy for chronic pain in adults. Data Sources: MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PsycINFO, and CINAHL (January 2008 through August 2014); relevant studies from a prior review; reference lists; and ClinicalTrials.gov. Study Selection: Randomized trials and observational studies that involved adults with chronic pain who were prescribed longterm opioid therapy and that evaluated opioid therapy versus placebo, no opioid, or nonopioid therapy; different opioid dosing strategies; or risk mitigation strategies. Data Extraction: Dual extraction and quality assessment. Data Synthesis: No study of opioid therapy versus no opioid therapy evaluated long-term (>1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, quality of life, opioid abuse, or addiction. Good- and fair-quality observational studies suggest that opioid therapy for chronic pain is associated with increased risk for overdose, opioid abuse, fractures, myocardial infarction, and markers of sexual dysfunction, although there are few studies for each of these outcomes; for some harms, higher doses are associated with increased risk. Evidence on the effectiveness and harms of different opioid dosing and risk mitigation strategies is limited. Limitations: Non-English-language articles were excluded, meta-analysis could not be done, and publication bias could not be assessed. No placebo-controlled trials met inclusion criteria, evidence was lacking for many comparisons and outcomes, and observational studies were limited in their ability to address potential confounding. Conclusion: Evidence is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of long-term opioid therapy for improving chronic pain and function. Evidence supports a dose-dependent risk for serious harms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)276-286
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Internal Medicine
Volume162
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 17 2015

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National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
Chronic Pain
Opioid Analgesics
Education
Therapeutics
Observational Studies
Placebos
Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
Publication Bias
Aptitude
Information Storage and Retrieval
MEDLINE
Uncertainty
Prescriptions
Meta-Analysis
Language

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this

The effectiveness and risks of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain : A systematic review for a national institutes of health pathways to prevention workshop. / Chou, Roger; Turner, Judith A.; Devine, Emily B.; Hansen, Ryan N.; Sullivan, Sean D.; Blazina, Ian; Dana, Tracy; Bougatsos, Christina; Deyo, Richard (Rick).

In: Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 162, No. 4, 17.02.2015, p. 276-286.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Chou, Roger ; Turner, Judith A. ; Devine, Emily B. ; Hansen, Ryan N. ; Sullivan, Sean D. ; Blazina, Ian ; Dana, Tracy ; Bougatsos, Christina ; Deyo, Richard (Rick). / The effectiveness and risks of long-term opioid therapy for chronic pain : A systematic review for a national institutes of health pathways to prevention workshop. In: Annals of Internal Medicine. 2015 ; Vol. 162, No. 4. pp. 276-286.
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AU - Hansen, Ryan N.

AU - Sullivan, Sean D.

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AU - Bougatsos, Christina

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AB - Background: Increases in prescriptions of opioid medications for chronic pain have been accompanied by increases in opioid overdoses, abuse, and other harms and uncertainty about longterm effectiveness. Purpose: To evaluate evidence on the effectiveness and harms of long-term (>3 months) opioid therapy for chronic pain in adults. Data Sources: MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, PsycINFO, and CINAHL (January 2008 through August 2014); relevant studies from a prior review; reference lists; and ClinicalTrials.gov. Study Selection: Randomized trials and observational studies that involved adults with chronic pain who were prescribed longterm opioid therapy and that evaluated opioid therapy versus placebo, no opioid, or nonopioid therapy; different opioid dosing strategies; or risk mitigation strategies. Data Extraction: Dual extraction and quality assessment. Data Synthesis: No study of opioid therapy versus no opioid therapy evaluated long-term (>1 year) outcomes related to pain, function, quality of life, opioid abuse, or addiction. Good- and fair-quality observational studies suggest that opioid therapy for chronic pain is associated with increased risk for overdose, opioid abuse, fractures, myocardial infarction, and markers of sexual dysfunction, although there are few studies for each of these outcomes; for some harms, higher doses are associated with increased risk. Evidence on the effectiveness and harms of different opioid dosing and risk mitigation strategies is limited. Limitations: Non-English-language articles were excluded, meta-analysis could not be done, and publication bias could not be assessed. No placebo-controlled trials met inclusion criteria, evidence was lacking for many comparisons and outcomes, and observational studies were limited in their ability to address potential confounding. Conclusion: Evidence is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of long-term opioid therapy for improving chronic pain and function. Evidence supports a dose-dependent risk for serious harms.

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