Chronic pain medication management of older populations: Key points from a national conference and innovative opportunities for pharmacy practice

Julia Fiona-Maree Gilmartin-Thomas, J. Simon Bell, Danny Liew, Carolyn A. Arnold, Rachelle Buchbinder, Colin Chapman, Flavia Cicuttini, Malcolm Dobbin, Stephen J. Gibson, Melita J. Giummarra, Jenny Gowan, Benny Katz, Dan L. Lubman, Matthew McCrone, Jennifer Pilgrim, Anneliese Synnot, Eleanor van Dyk, Barbara Workman, John McNeil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Inappropriate use of pain medication has serious consequences for older populations. Experts in the field have noted an increase in opioid prescriptions, and opioid-related hospitalisations and deaths among this vulnerable population. In the pursuit of educating pharmacists, physicians, allied healthcare professionals, researchers, academics and the public facing the challenges of chronic pain medication management, ‘The Inaugural Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine (SPHPM) Best Practice in Chronic Pain Medication Management Day Conference’ was held in December 2016 at the Alfred Medical Research and Education Precinct (Melbourne, Australia). Methods: Fifteen experts presented on aspects of chronic pain epidemiology and current analgesic use in older Australians, and discussed current practice and associated challenges. Results: Presenters highlighted the dramatic increase in opioid prescribing, development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, problems with abuse and addiction, increased risk of death from overdose or suicide, potentiation of sedative effects with concurrent use of anxiolytics/hypnotics, and medication diversion. Conclusions: Pharmacists are very accessible to patients and are crucial members of medication management teams. They have the necessary medication expertise to review medication regimens and provide patient education. Towards addressing chronic pain medication management of older populations, pharmacists can contribute in several ways, such as being aware of relevant guidelines and completing further training, contributing to policy and guideline development, participating in multidisciplinary panels, working groups and pain management teams, collaborating on research projects, and educating the community. With regards to opioid medication management, pharmacists are in an ideal position to: monitor prescription dispensing and potential misuse, provide education about overuse, and, if appropriate, provide access to naloxone. In order to fulfil these roles and responsibilities, allied healthcare professionals should be educated and informed, and opportunities for continuing professional education should be available and utilised. Pharmacists should have the necessary knowledge and skills to optimise chronic pain management, and to both deliver and inform policies and guidelines on pharmacological management of chronic pain in older people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-213
Number of pages7
JournalResearch in Social and Administrative Pharmacy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019


  • Analgesic
  • Chronic pain
  • Geriatrics
  • Medication
  • Prescribing

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