Treatment patterns and out-of-hospital healthcare resource utilisation by patients with advanced cancer living with pain: An analysis from the Stop Cancer PAIN trial

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PloS one


BACKGROUND: About 70% of patients with advanced cancer experience pain. Few studies have investigated the use of healthcare in this population and the relationship between pain intensity and costs. METHODS: Adults with advanced cancer and scored worst pain ≥ 2/10 on a numeric rating scale (NRS) were recruited from 6 Australian oncology/palliative care outpatient services to the Stop Cancer PAIN trial (08/15-06/19). Out-of-hospital, publicly funded services, prescriptions and costs were estimated for the three months before pain screening. Descriptive statistics summarize the clinico-demographic variables, health services and costs, treatments and pain scores. Relationships with costs were explored using Spearman correlations, Mann-Whitney U and Kruskal-Wallis tests, and a gamma log-link generalized linear model. RESULTS: Overall, 212 participants had median worst pain scores of five (inter-quartile range 4). The most frequently prescribed medications were opioids (60.1%) and peptic ulcer/gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) drugs (51.6%). The total average healthcare cost in the three months before the census date was A$6,742 (95% CI $5,637, $7,847), approximately $27,000 annually. Men had higher mean healthcare costs than women, adjusting for age, cancer type and pain levels (men $7,872, women $4,493, p<0.01) and higher expenditure on prescriptions (men $5,559, women $2,034, p<0.01). CONCLUSIONS: In this population with pain and cancer, there was no clear relationship between healthcare costs and pain severity. These treatment patterns requiring further exploration including the prevalence of peptic ulcer/GORD drugs, and lipid lowering agents and the higher healthcare costs for men. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ACTRN12615000064505. World Health Organisation unique trial number U1111-1164-4649. Registered 23 January 2015.

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