A Concept Analysis of Analgesic Nonadherence for Cancer Pain in a Time of Opioid Crisis

Abstract [from journal]

Background: Pain is one of the most common symptoms identified along the cancer trajectory. Among patients with moderate to severe cancer pain, nonadherence to prescribed analgesics may complicate treatment plans and exacerbate pain severity. Nonadherent behaviors are likely due to a number of individual/family, provider, and system level factors and may lead to negative pain-related outcomes.

Method: The purpose of this concept analysis is to clarify the concept of analgesic nonadherence for cancer pain and qualify its utility in the context of the opioid crisis. Walker and Avant's (2019) method for concept analysis was used. We integrated empirical evidence, relevant literature, and sociopolitical considerations related to the opioid crisis to provide critical and timely analysis. Data were collected from a search of PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Scopus. The search yielded 418 individual records. Empirical articles using quantitative and qualitative methodologies pertaining to analgesic nonadherence for cancer pain in adult outpatient settings, written in English, with an abstract, and published between 2010 and 2018 were considered. Other relevant literature sources were used if additional criteria were met. A total of 33 records were selected for detailed review.

Findings: Few studies link analgesic nonadherence to patient outcomes highlighting a significant literature gap. Given the available evidence, a definition for analgesic nonadherence is proposed for future use in research, education, practice, and policy settings.

Discussion: The paucity of empirical data combined with the implications of the opioid crisis and conflicting pain management guidelines create uncertainty about the utility of analgesic nonadherence. The concept of analgesic nonadherence warrants further normative and empirical research to clarify the role of opioids and the meaning of nonadherence in shaping pain-related outcomes within the current sociopolitical environment.