A pharmacist-led intervention to improve the management of opioids in a general practice: a qualitative evaluation of participant interviews

Publication Name

International Journal of Clinical Pharmacy


Background Opioid prescribing has escalated, particularly long-term in chronic noncancer pain. Innovative models of care have been recommended to augment regulatory and harm-minimisation strategies and to review the safety and benefits of opioids for the individual patient. Medication stewardship and pharmacist integration are evolving approaches for general practice. Aim To explore enablers, barriers, and outcomes of a pharmacist-led intervention to improve opioid management in general practice, from the perspectives of general practitioners (GPs) and practice personnel. Method The study was part of a mixed-methods investigation into a general practice pharmacist pilot. Qualitative data relevant to opioids were analysed. Data from 13 semi-structured interviews were coded, analysed iteratively and thematically, and interpreted conceptually through the framework of Opioid Stewardship fundamentals proposed by the National Quality Forum. Results Seven themes and 14 subthemes aligned with stewardship fundamentals. Participants considered organisational policy, supported by leadership and education, fostered collaboration and consistency and improved practice safety. Patient engagement with individualised resources, ‘agreements’ and ‘having the conversation’ with the pharmacist enabled person-centred opioid review and weaning. GPs reported greater accountability and reflection in their practices, in the broader context of opioid prescribing and dilemmas in managing patients transitioning through care. Receiving feedback on practice deprescribing outcomes encouraged participants’ ongoing commitment. Patient communication was deemed an early barrier; however, learnings were applied when transferring the model to other high-risk medicines. Conclusion Improved opioid management was enabled through implementing pharmacist-led coordinated stewardship. The findings offer a practical application of guideline advice to individualise opioid deprescribing.

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