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    By Phil Miller, Contributor

    A new year-long study will look at how pain specialists and primary care doctors are prescribing opioids for non-cancer pain, according to reports published in Anesthesiology News and elsewhere.

    Called OPUS (Opioid Utlization Study) the study is sponsored by Endo Pharmaceuticals.  It will create an observational, noninterventional patient registry that will help delineate the use of opioids in the treatment of chronic noncancer pain.  The purpose is to gain a better understanding of what physicians are doing when it comes to managing chronic pain patients.  

    The registry will be managed by a health outcomes company separate from Endo, according to Anesthesiology News, and will collect data on 2,000 chronic pain patients located in 80 sites throughout the U.S.

    Adults taking an opioid for any chronic pain condition will be eligible for the registry.   The large database will allow statisticians involved in the study to extract significant data on specific drug treatments, including treatments that are rarely administered.

    OPUS will collect data from practices of various sizes and will include both anesthesiologists and primary care physicians, with an equal split between pain management centers and primary care practices.   An additional 10 percent of the sites will examine several other specialties that also manage chronic pain patients.   Data will be collected at baseline, six months and one year of opioid treatment.

    Registry data will be broken out in three ways.   Pain management choices made by physicians will be grouped in one category.   Patient information will be grouped in a second, and cost related data will be included in a third.

    Patients will be asked to fill out four questionnaires.  One will be a Short-Form 12 Health Survey and a second a Brief Pain Inventory.  These questionnaires will be used to collect information on the effects of patient pain on patient quality of life.   A third form, called the Depression, Anxiety and Positive Outlook Scale, will measure the emotional state of patients.   A fourth form – the Health and Labor Questionnaire – will be used to determine how pain is affecting the patient’s employment and economic position.

    The study is projected to provide primary care physicians with more thorough, evidence based data than is now available on the use of opioids, so that prescriptions can be based on measured outcomes.   Study results should be of particular use to rurally based primary care physicians, who often practice in areas where there are no pain management specialists, and to any primary care doctors seeking more knowledge on how pain contributes to psychiatric problems such as depression.

    For pain specialists, the study is intended to impart a broad view of how primary care doctors are prescribing pain medicine and whether PCPs are managing pain in the manner which pain specialists generally recommend.   For physicians who are treating patients with the most disabling chronic pain, the study will offer a wide range of information on the psychological and economic consequences to patients of chronic pain treatment.  

    Some results of the study were presented at the 2009 American Pain Management Meeting in San Diego.   Data collection and dissemination is still in the early stages and could go on for years, according to sources cited in Anesthesiology News.

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