Using Electronic Medical Records to Assess the Effectiveness of Pharmacotherapy in Pain: A Review of Recent Observational Studies

J Pain Palliat Care Pharmacother. 2016 Sep;30(3):210-7. doi: 10.1080/15360288.2016.1184215. Epub 2016 Jun 3.


Pain disorders affect a large number of individuals throughout the world and are costly. Although randomized clinical trials assess the efficacy (i.e., how well treatments work in controlled settings) of pain pharmacotherapy, clinical trials do not assess effectiveness (i.e., how well treatments work in real-world settings). The number of observational studies that use real-world data to assess the effectiveness of medications is increasing rapidly in many disease areas. It is important for clinicians to understand how real-world data may be used to assess the effectiveness of medications. This paper aims to review the current body of literature assessing the effectiveness of pain pharmacotherapy using medical records. To do this, a literature search was conducted to identify papers published between January 2013 and September 2015 that examined the effectiveness of pain pharmacotherapy using electronic medical records. The search found only three papers meeting these criteria, which were described, reviewed, and critiqued in this paper. Electronic medical records are an underutilized source of data to assess pain outcomes in real-world settings. Although there are many methodological challenges in using these data, there is also great opportunity to impact clinical practice and explore the real-world effectiveness of pharmacotherapy used in pain management.

Keywords: Electronic medical records; observational studies; outcomes research; pain; pain management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Electronic Health Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Observational Studies as Topic*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics