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Intern Med J. 2014 Jun;44(6):586-91. doi: 10.1111/imj.12442.

Implementing practice change in chronic cancer pain management: clinician response to a phase III study of ketamine.

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Mater Health Services, Mater Research/University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.



An adequately powered, double-blind, multisite, randomised controlled trial has shown no net clinical benefit for subcutaneous ketamine over placebo in the management of cancer pain refractory to combination opioid and co-analgesic therapy. The results of the trial were disseminated widely both nationally and internationally.


To determine whether the trial had impacted on clinical practice in Australasia.


Members of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine were sent an online ketamine utilisation survey.


A total of 123/392 clinicians responded (31% response rate). The majority of respondents had practised for more than 10 years in a metropolitan hospital setting. Ketamine had been prescribed by 91% of respondents, and 92% were aware of the trial. As a result, 65% of respondents had changed practice (17% no longer prescribed ketamine, 46% used less and 2% more). Thirty-five per cent had not changed practice. Reasons for change included belief in the results of the study, concerns over the toxicity reported or because there were alternatives for pain control. Of those who prescribed less, over 80% were more selective and would now only use the drug in certain clinical situations or pain types, or when all other medications had failed.


Although two-thirds of respondents reported practice change as a result of the randomised controlled trial, a minority remained convinced of the benefit of the drug from their own observations and would require additional evidence.


ketamine; palliative care; practice change; randomised controlled trial; refractory cancer pain

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