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Practices, Attitudes, and Beliefs of Palliative Care Physicians Regarding the Use of Methadone and Other Long-Acting Opioids in Children with Advanced Cancer

Journal title
Journal of palliative medicine
Publication year
Madden, K.; Park, M.; Liu, D.; Bruera, E.

BACKGROUND: Palliative care physicians often assist with pain management in children with cancer, but little is known about how they use long-acting opioids for chronic pain with these patients. OBJECTIVE: To determine the practices, attitudes, and beliefs of palliative care physicians toward the use of long-acting opioids in children with advanced cancer. DESIGN: An electronic survey was sent to all members of The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (SOHPM) and those identified as physicians who provide palliative care to children on the AAP SOHPM LISTSERV((R)). RESULTS: The response rate to the survey was 62% (116/188). A majority (66% [77/116]) of physicians are board certified in both pediatrics and hospice and palliative medicine. This represents 28% of all board-certified pediatric palliative care physicians. Most palliative care physicians report comfort in using long-acting opioids in children (84-94%), with the exception of long-acting hydromorphone (37%). Physicians perceived methadone as least costly (3%) but associated it with a higher perceived family resistance (51%). As compared with pediatric palliative care fellowship-trained physicians, nonpediatric fellowship-trained physicians perceived titration of oxycodone ER and morphine ER to be easier (p = 0.06, p = 0.07) and less likely to agree that the main reason for starting methadone is that the existing formulations of other long-acting opioids are unsuitable for children (p = 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Most physicians who provide palliative care to children are comfortable using opioids but there is significant variation in the level of comfort with different opioids. This information will be helpful in developing targeted education for palliative care providers.

Research abstracts