Risk Management for Opioid Prescribing in the Treatment of Patients With Pain From Cancer or Terminal Illness: Inadvertent Oversight or Taboo?

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As the United States experiences an epidemic of prescription drug abuse, and guidelines on safe practices in prescribing opioids in chronic pain have subsequently emerged from professional organizations and governmental agencies, limited guidance exists for prescribers of opioids to treat pain in patients with cancer or terminal illness. Patients with active cancer or terminal illness often have pain and are frequently prescribed opioids and other controlled substances. Current studies suggest that patients with cancer have similar rates of risk for misuse, abuse, and addiction as the general public. Moreover, palliative care and hospice programs appear poorly prepared for assessing or managing patients with aberrant behaviors or evidence of drug abuse. Further research and professional consensus are needed to help address the challenges associated with misuse, abuse, and addiction in patients with cancer and terminal illness.

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