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Physician-related barriers to cancer pain management with opioid analgesics: A systematic review

Ramune Jacobsen, MS, MPH, Per Sjøgren, MD, DMS, Claus Møldrup, PhD, Lona Christrup, PhD


Objective: The purpose of this review is to summarize the results of studies on physician-related barriers to cancer pain management with opioid analgesics.
Methods: A literature search was conducted in PUBMED, using a combined text word and MeSH heading search strategy. Those articles whose full texts were not available in PUBMED were retrieved from the electronic databases of specific journals.
Results: Sixty-five relevant articles, published in the period from 1986 to 2006, were identified. Physicians’ barriers to cancer pain management were studied in questionnaire surveys and in the reviews of drug prescribing documents. The results of the articles found were analyzed with respect to (a) knowledge, beliefs, concerns, problems endorsed or acknowledged by physicians treating cancer pain, (b) physicians’ skills in pain assessment, and (c) adequacy of opioid prescription.
Conclusions: This review revealed mostly general and common physician-related barriers to cancer pain management: concerns about side effects to opioids, prescription of not efficient doses of opioids, and very poor prescription for the treatment of side effects from opioids. In the future, the evaluation of the influence of cultural-social-economical background, as well as the differences between the various specialists involved in the care of patients with cancer, should be explored to better understand physicians’ barriers and more effectively address them in interventional and educational programs.


cancer pain, opioid prescription, physicians, barriers

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