Research Project Summary

Year Funded: 2012 Budget: Funding Agency: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
Title: A Systematic Review of Long-Term Use of Opioids for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain (IWH Project 3125)
Category: Compensation, Disability Management and Return to Work
Subcategory: Compensation, Disability Management and Return to Work
Keywords: opioid medication, chronic pain, work disability
Link to research website:


Opioids are very potent analgesics, and chronic non-cancer pain, which includes back pain, osteoarthritis, neuropathic pain, painful diabetic neuropathy, is very debilitating. Therefore, the use of opioids is intended to help this population to improve their pain, function, quality of life, and increase participation in society. There is now a Canadian Clinical Practice Guideline for how to use opioids safely and effectively for CNCP, released in May 2010. The guideline recommends monitoring for function and risks during long-term opioid therapy. The goal of long-term opioid therapy is to not only improve pain, but to help patients maintain function and role participation, while minimizing the risks of therapy, including falls, fractures, overdose, and aberrant drug behaviours, such as abuse addiction, and diversion. However, there remains significant uncertainty about whether long-term opioid therapy is beneficial or harmful for CNCP.


To conduct a systematic review (with or without meta-analyses) of the published scientific literature on the impact of long-term opioid therapy for chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP).
To perform subgroup and sensitivity analyses to guide current practice and future research.

Anticipated Results:

Clinicians, provincial worker’s compensation boards.


Andrea Furlan, Nancy Carnide, Emma Irvin, Claire Munhall, Dwayne van Eerd, Ron Saunders (Institute for Work & Health)