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Chronic pain – the role of pharmacist

Pharmacists, as primary care providers, have a vital role in supporting patients’ pain self-management. They can monitor prescription dispensing and potential misuse of medicines (e.g. opioids), and provide education about management of adverse effects and appropriate use of medicines to reduce or prevent medicine-related harm.

Chronic non-cancer pain is characterised by pain that persists despite adequate time for healing and is often defined as pain that has been present for more than 3 months.2 It is associated with clinical, psychological and social consequences, including limitations in daily activities, lost work productivity, reduced quality of life and stigma. The primary goal of caring for a patient with chronic non-cancer pain is not the elimination of pain, but the improvement of function. Patients should receive appropriate pain treatment after careful consideration of benefits and risks of treatment options.3

Management of chronic pain is undergoing a paradigm shift, in recognition of the limited efficacy of opioids and risk of harms associated with their use.4,5 Opioids have a limited role in chronic pain management.6 The primary change in the management of chronic pain is towards a biopsychosocial approach and the use of non-pharmacological therapies.7,8

Chronic pain management should be patient centred and multidisciplinary. It may include both pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments. Patients living with chronic pain must be regularly assessed by their general practitioner. Chronic pain often responds poorly to analgesics alone, and therefore requires a multidisciplinary approach, combining physical, psychological and pharmacological therapies.6


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