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Chronic Opioid Therapy: A Scoping Literature Review on Evolving Clinical and Scientific Definitions

Published:October 05, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpain.2020.09.002

      Highlights

      • We comprehensively identified chronic opioid therapy (COT) definition criteria.
      • The most common definition criterion of COT was 90 days’ supply, in recent years.
      • Precision in description of opioid type and dosage were lacking in literature.

      Abstract

      The management of chronic noncancer pain (CNCP) with chronic opioid therapy (COT) is controversial. There is a lack of consensus on how COT is defined resulting in unclear clinical guidance. This scoping review identifies and evaluates evolving COT definitions throughout the published clinical and scientific literature. Databases searched included PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science. A total of 227 studies were identified from 8,866 studies published between January 2000 and July 2019. COT definitions were classified by pain population of application and specific dosage/duration definition parameters, with results reported according to PRISMA-ScR. Approximately half of studies defined COT as “days’ supply duration >90 days” and 9.3% defined as “>120 days’ supply,” with other days’ supply cut-off points (>30, >60, or >70) each appearing in <5% of total studies. COT was defined by number of prescriptions in 63 studies, with 16.3% and 11.0% using number of initiations or refills, respectively. Few studies explicitly distinguished acute treatment and COT. Episode duration/dosage criteria was used in 90 studies, with 7.5% by Morphine Milligram Equivalents + days’ supply and 32.2% by other “episode” combination definitions. COT definitions were applied in musculoskeletal CNCP (60.8%) most often, and typically in adults aged 18 to 64 (69.6%). The usage of “>90 days’ supply” COT definitions increased from 3.2 publications/year before 2016 to 20.7 publications/year after 2016. An increasing proportion of studies define COT as “>90 days’ supply.” The most recent literature trends toward shorter duration criteria, suggesting that contemporary COT definitions are increasingly conservative.

      Perspective

      This study summarized the most common, current definition criteria for chronic opioid therapy (COT) and recommends adoption of consistent definition criteria to be utilized in practice and research. The most recent literature trends toward shorter duration criteria overall, suggesting that COT definition criteria are increasingly stringent.

      Key Words

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