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Pain Research and Management
Volume 18, Issue 2, Pages 83-86
Original Article

Continuing Methadone for Pain in Palliative Care

Philippa Hawley,1,2 Ryan Liebscher,1,3 and Jessica Wilford4

1Division of Palliative Care, Department of Family Practice, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Canada
2British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada
3Victoria Hospice Society, Victoria, Canada
4Department of Dermatology and Skin Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Copyright © 2013 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: Methadone is one of the most important medications used for the treatment of refractory pain in the palliative care setting, and is usually initially prescribed by one of a limited number of physicians who have acquired authorization for its use. A lack of authorized physicians able to take over prescribing when the patient is stable is a barrier to accessing methadone for analgesia.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the barriers to family physicians becoming authorized to prescribe methadone for pain in palliative care.

METHODS: A survey exploring the perceived barriers to continuing methadone for pain in palliative care following initial prescription by a specialist was mailed to a randomly selected group of 870 family physicians in British Columbia.

RESULTS: The response rate was 30.9%. Of the 204 responding physicians, 76.1% described themselves as positioned to provide ongoing palliative care to their patients. Within this group, 38 (18.6%) were already authorized to prescribe methadone for pain. The remaining 166 (81.4%) had significant knowledge deficits regarding methadone use in palliative care, but were largely aware of their deficits, and more than one-half were willing to learn more and to obtain an authorization if requested.

CONCLUSIONS: Responding family physicians had mostly received little education regarding methadone for pain, but were aware of their need for education and were willing to learn. Physicians who had already become authorized were generally satisfied with the process of authorization, and believed the process of education through authorization was appropriate and not onerous.