Adherence to prescribed analgesics for patients seriously ill with cancer pain is essential for comfort.
The objective of this study was to determine the analgesic adherence in seriously ill patients with cancer and its association with clinical and demographic characteristics.
This is a cross-sectional study. At home, 202 patients with cancer (mean age, 59.9 ± 14.2 years; 58% female, 48% Black, and 42% White) admitted to hospice/palliative care completed measures on a pen tablet: PAINReportIt, Symptom Distress Scale, mood state item, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index item, and Pain Management Index.
The mean current pain intensity was 4.4 ± 2.9, and the mean worst pain in the past 24 hours was 7.2 ± 2.7. More than one-half of participants were not satisfied with their pain level (54%) and reported their pain was more intense than they wanted to tolerate for 18 hours or longer in the last 24 hours (51%). Only 12% were not prescribed analgesics appropriate for the intensity of their pain. Adherence rates were variable: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (0.63 ± 0.50), adjuvants (0.93 ± 0.50), World Health Organization step 2 opioids (0.63 ± 0.49), and step 3 opioids (0.80 ± 0.40). With setting/clinical/demographic variables in the model, dose intervals of less than 8 hours were associated with less adherence (P < .001).
Little progress has been made toward improving analgesic adherence even in settings providing analgesics without cost. Research focused on targeting analgesic dose intervals and barriers not related to cost is needed.
Implication for Practice
Dose intervals of 8 hours or longer were significantly associated with higher adherence rates; therefore, use of longer-acting analgesics is one strategy to improve pain control at the end of life.