Managing Opioids and Mitigating Risk: A Survey of Attitudes, Confidence and Practices of Oncology Health Care Professionals.


Tedesco A(1), Brown J(2), Hannon B(2), Hutton L(3), Lau J(2).
Author information:
(1)Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care, Sinai Health System, Toronto, ON M5T 3L9, Canada.
(2)Department of Supportive Care, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, Toronto, ON M5G 2C1, Canada.
(3)Pharmacy Services, Queen Elizabeth II Health Science Centre, Nova Scotia Health, Halifax, NS B3H 2Y9, Canada.


In response to Canada's opioid crisis, national strategies and guidelines have been developed but primarily focus on opioid use for chronic noncancer pain. Despite the well-established utility of opioids in cancer care, and the growing emphasis on early palliative care, little attention has been paid to opioid risk in this population, where evidence increasingly shows a higher risk of opioid-related harms than was previously thought. The primary objective of this study was to assess oncology clinicians' attitudes, confidence, and practices in managing opioids in outpatients with cancer. This was explored using pilot-tested, profession-specific surveys for physicians/nurse practitioners, nurses and pharmacists. Descriptive analyses were conducted in aggregate and separately based on discipline. Univariate and multiple linear regression analyses were performed to explore relationships between confidence and practices within and across disciplines. The survey was distributed to approximately 400 clinicians in January 2019. Sixty-five responses (27 physicians/nurse practitioners, 31 nurses, 7 pharmacists) were received. Participants endorsed low confidence, differing attitudes, and limited and varied practice in managing and mitigating opioid risks in the cancer population. This study provides valuable insights into knowledge gaps and clinical practices of oncology healthcare professionals in managing opioids and mitigating associated risks for patients with cancer.