BACKGROUND: Opioid use for chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) is complex. In the absence of pan-European guidance on this issue, a position paper was commissioned by the European Pain Federation (EFIC).
METHODS: The clinical practice recommendations were developed by eight scientific societies and one patient self-help organization under the coordination of EFIC. A systematic literature search in MEDLINE (up until January 2020) was performed. Two categories of guidance are given: Evidence-based recommendations (supported by evidence from systematic reviews of randomized controlled trials or of observational studies) and Good Clinical Practice (GCP) statements (supported either by indirect evidence or by case-series, case-control studies and clinical experience). The GRADE system was applied to move from evidence to recommendations. The recommendations and GCP statements were developed by a multiprofessional task force (including nursing, service users, physicians, physiotherapy and psychology) and formal multistep procedures to reach a set of consensus recommendations. The clinical practice recommendations were reviewed by five external reviewers from North America and Europe and were also posted for public comment.
RESULTS: The key clinical practice recommendations suggest: (a) first optimizing established non-pharmacological treatments and non-opioid analgesics and (b) considering opioid treatment if established non-pharmacological treatments or non-opioid analgesics are not effective and/or not tolerated and/or contraindicated. Evidence- and clinical consensus-based potential indications and contraindications for opioid treatment are presented. Eighteen GCP recommendations give guidance regarding clinical evaluation, as well as opioid treatment assessment, monitoring, continuation and discontinuation.
CONCLUSIONS: Opioids remain a treatment option for some selected patients with CNCP under careful surveillance.