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American Society for Action on Pain

Author: Krick-S-E. Lindley-C-M. Bennett-M.

Title: Pharmacy-perceived barriers to cancer pain control: results of the North Carolina Cancer Pain Initiative Pharmacist Survey.

Source: Ann-Pharmacother. 1994 Jul-Aug. 28(7-8). P 857-62.


Abstract: OBJECTIVE: To assess pharmacists' knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding the use of narcotics in cancer pain management, identify pharmacist counseling activities for cancer pain patients, assess pharmacy- related barriers to cancer pain management, and evaluate the availability of narcotic analgesics. METHODS: Mailing of a six-page survey. SETTING: Five hundred randomly selected pharmacists registered in North Carolina. PARTICIPANTS: Of 500 pharmacists surveyed, 141 surveys were completed and returned for a response rate of 28.2 percent. RESULTS: Pharmacists surveyed were knowledgeable regarding the problem of undertreatment of cancer pain. More than 80 percent of respondents replied that most cancer patients experience pain at some time during their illness. Eighty-five percent of respondents agreed that the nurse must believe the patient's report of pain and that the patient is the best judge of the intensity of the pain. Conservative physician prescribing patterns and conservative administration patterns of nurses were identified as perceived barriers to adequate pain management by 51 and 44 percent of respondents, respectively. Less than 30 percent of respondents frequently counseled cancer pain patients and were unable to identify patients who have cancer pain as a major medical illness. Hospital pharmacists recommended adjunctive therapy more often than did community pharmacists (p = 0.013). Interventions in pain management regimens were more often conducted by hospital pharmacists than by community pharmacists (p = 0.049). Differences in availability of narcotics was noted among practice sites for some more potent narcotics. Of the pharmacists surveyed, only 43 percent had attended a continuing education program on cancer pain management. Ninety-six percent of respondents were interested in attending a continuing education program in the future.

CONCLUSIONS: Pharmacists in North Carolina are aware that the undertreatment of cancer pain is a serious medical problem. Unfortunately, pharmacists appear to be unable to identify patients with cancer pain as a major medical problem; therefore, counseling activity is limited. Addiction is still perceived as a barrier by some pharmacists. Through organizations such as the North Carolina Pain Initiative, these problems can be addressed.