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Subst Abus. 2017 Apr 10:1-8. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2017.1296525. [Epub ahead of print]

What do providers want to know about opioid prescribing? A qualitative analysis of their questions.

Author information

a Boston University School of Medicine , Boston , Massachusetts , USA.
b Section of General Internal Medicine, Boston Medical Center , Boston , Massachusetts , USA.



In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) responded to the opioid crisis with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy, requiring manufacturers of extended-release/long-acting opioids to fund continuing medical education based on the "FDA Blueprint for Prescriber Education." Topics in the Blueprint are "Assessing Patients for Treatment," "Initiating Therapy, Modifying Dosing, and Discontinuing Use," "Managing Therapy," "Counseling Patients and Caregivers about Safe Use," "General Drug Information," and "Specific Drug Information." Based on the FDA Blueprint, Boston University School of Medicine's "Safe and Competent Opioid Prescribing Education" (SCOPE of Pain) offers live trainings for physicians and other prescribers. During trainings, participants submit written questions about the curriculum and/or their clinical experiences.


The objective was to compare themes that arose from questions asked by SCOPE of Pain participants with content of the FDA Blueprint in order to evaluate how well the Blueprint answers prescribers' concerns. The authors conducted qualitative analyses of all 1309 questions submitted by participants in 29 trainings across 16 states from May 2013 to May 2015, using conventional content analysis to code the questions. Themes that emerged from participants' questions were then compared with the Blueprint.


Most themes fell into the topic categories of the Blueprint. Five main themes diverged: Participants sought information on (1) safe alternatives to opioids, (2) overcoming barriers to safe opioid prescribing, (3) government regulations of opioid prescribing, (4) the role of marijuana in opioid prescribing, and (5) maintaining a positive provider-patient relationship while prescribing opioids.


In addition to learning the mechanics of safe opioid prescribing, providers want to understand government regulations and effective patient communication skills. Aware of the limitations of opioids in managing chronic pain, providers seek advice on alternatives therapies. Future updates to the FDA Blueprint and other educational guidelines on opioid prescribing should address providers' additional questions.


Analgesics; chronic pain/drug; continuing medical education; opioid/therapeutic use

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