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Review Article

Access to Opioids for Patients with Advanced Disease

[ Vol. 25 , Issue. 30 ]


Helen Edwards* and Michael Bennett   Pages 3203 - 3208 ( 6 )


Pain at the end of life is common in both malignant and non-malignant disease. It is feared by patients, their families and careers, and professionals. Effective pain control can be achieved for the majority of patients at the end of life using a multimodal approach. Pharmacological management relies predominantly on strong opioids. In spite of this, evidence suggests that under treatment of pain is common resulting in unnecessary suffering. Multiple barriers to use of opioids have been identified. Patient barriers include reluctance to report pain and to take analgesics. Professional barriers include inadequate pain assessment and lack of specialist knowledge and confidence in opioid therapy. Fear of side effects including respiratory depression affects patients and professionals alike. The impact of the “opioid epidemic”, with increasing prescribed and illicit opioid use around the world, has also led to increasingly stringent regulation and concern about under prescribing in palliative care. System barriers to use of opioids at the end of life result from limited opioid availability in some countries and also inconsistent and limited access to palliative care. Multiple interventions have been developed to address these barriers, targeted at patients, professionals and systems. There is increasing evidence to suggest that complex interventions combining a number of different approaches are most effective in optimising pain outcomes for patients at the end of life.


Access to opioids, advanced disease, pain, palliative care, treatment, analgesics.


Academic Unit of Palliative Care, University of Leeds, Leeds, Academic Unit of Palliative Care, University of Leeds, Leeds

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