Knowledge, Perceptions and Attitudes toward Chronic Pain and Its Management: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Frontline Pharmacists in Ontario, Canada

PLoS One. 2016 Jun 7;11(6):e0157151. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0157151. eCollection 2016.


The treatment of chronic pain consumes a significant share of primary care. Community and family health team pharmacists frequently see patients with chronic pain, thus have the opportunity to improve their care. To assess the knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes of Ontario pharmacists, we invited 5,324 Ontario pharmacists, to participate in an online survey we developed using Qualtrics. The 31-question survey gathered demographic information, assessed pharmacists' knowledge of three chronic pain conditions; chronic lower back pain (CLBP, eight true/false statements); chronic headache disorder (CHD, eight true/false statements) and painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN, seven true/false statements), and their attitudes toward and perceptions of patients with these conditions, and knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of opioids in pain management. We received 688 responses (12.9%) and 392 pharmacists completed the survey. The mean age of respondents was 48.5 years and 48.5% were male. More than 50% of respondents were in practice for more than 20 years and 58.7% worked 25-40 hours per week. The mean knowledge scores were 4.5/8, 5.5/8, and 5.3/8 for CBLP, CHD, and PDN respectively. While 95% of respondents were aware of the increasing death rates due to opioid use, only half were familiar with the Canadian guideline for safe opioid prescribing for non-cancer use. Responses were compared based on gender, time in practice and location of practice. Pharmacists with more than ten years of experience scored significantly higher than those with less experience. Fewer differences were found in comparisons of gender and location of practice. Safe and effective care of chronic pain patients, particularly with opioids, will require additional pharmacist education.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Community Pharmacy Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Pain Management
  • Pharmacists*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Analgesics, Opioid

Grant support

This study was supported by a grant from the government of Ontario (Ministry grant no. 06674).