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Patient and Provider Perspectives on Benefits and Harms of Continuing, Tapering, and Discontinuing Long-Term Opioid Therapy.

Nevedal AL, Timko C, Lor MC, Hoggatt KJ. Patient and Provider Perspectives on Benefits and Harms of Continuing, Tapering, and Discontinuing Long-Term Opioid Therapy. Journal of general internal medicine. 2023 Jun 1; 38(8):1802-1811.

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BACKGROUND: Given efforts to taper patients off long-term opioid therapy (LTOT) because of known harms, it is important to understand if patients and providers align in LTOT treatment goals. OBJECTIVE: To investigate patient and provider perceptions about the harms and benefits of continuing and discontinuing LTOT. DESIGN: Qualitative study PARTICIPANTS: Patients and providers with experiences with LTOT for pain in two Veterans Health Affairs regions. APPROACH: We conducted semi-structured interviews and analyzed data using rapid qualitative analysis to describe patient and provider preferences about LTOT continuation and discontinuation and non-opioid pain treatments. KEY RESULTS: Participants (n = 43) included 28/67 patients and 15/17 providers. When discussing continuing LTOT, patients emphasized the benefits outweighed the harms, whereas providers emphasized the harms. Participants agreed on the benefits of continuing LTOT for improved physical functioning. Provider-reported benefits of continuing LTOT included maintaining the status quo for patients without opioid alternatives or who were at risk for illicit drug use. Participants were aligned regarding the harms of negative side-effects (e.g., constipation) from continued LTOT. In contrast, when discussing LTOT tapering and discontinuation, providers underscored how benefits outweighed the harms, citing patients'' improved well-being and pain management with tapering or alternatives. Patients did not foresee benefits to potential LTOT tapers or discontinuation and were worried about pain management in the absence of LTOT. When discussing non-opioid pain treatments, participants emphasized that they were adjunctive to opioid therapy rather than a replacement (except for cannabis). Providers described the importance of mental health services to manage pain, which differed from patients who focused on treatments to improve strength and mobility and reduce pain. CONCLUSIONS: Patients emphasized the benefits of continuing LTOT for pain management and well-being, which differed from providers'' emphasis on the benefits of discontinuing LTOT. Patient and provider differences are important for informing patient-centered care and decisions around continuing, tapering, or discontinuing LTOT.

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