The opioid renewal clinic: a primary care, managed approach to opioid therapy in chronic pain patients at risk for substance abuse

Pain Med. 2007 Oct-Nov;8(7):573-84. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2006.00254.x.


Objective: To measure the impact of a structured opioid renewal program for chronic pain run by a nurse practitioner (NP) and clinical pharmacist in a primary care setting.

Patients and setting: Patients with chronic noncancer pain managed with opioid therapy in a primary care clinic staffed by 19 providers serving 50,000 patients at an urban academic Veterans hospital.

Design: Naturalistic prospective outcome study.

Intervention: Based on published opioid prescribing guidelines and focus groups with primary care providers (PCPs), a structured program, the Opioid Renewal Clinic (ORC), was designed to support PCPs managing patients with chronic noncancer pain requiring opioids. After training in the use of opioid treatment agreements (OTAs) and random urine drug testing (UDT), PCPs worked with a pharmacist-run prescription management clinic supported by an onsite pain NP who was backed by a multi-specialty Pain Team. After 2 years, the program was evaluated for its impact on PCP practice and satisfaction, patient adherence, and pharmacy cost.

Results: A total of 335 patients were referred to the ORC. Of the 171 (51%) with documented aberrant behaviors, 77 (45%) adhered to the OTA and resolved their aberrant behaviors, 65 (38%) self-discharged, 22 (13%) were referred for addiction treatment, and seven (4%) with consistently negative UDT were weaned from opioids. The 164 (49%) who were referred for complexity including history of substance abuse or need for opioid rotation or titration, with no documented aberrant drug-related behaviors, continued to adhere to the OTA. Use of UDT and OTAs by PCPs increased. Significant pharmacy cost savings were demonstrated.

Conclusion: An NP/clinical pharmacist-run clinic, supported by a multi-specialty team, can successfully support a primary care practice in managing opioids in complex chronic pain patients.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / epidemiology*
  • Pain Clinics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Philadelphia / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Program Evaluation
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid