"We Need to Taper." Interviews with Clinicians and Pharmacists About Use of a Pharmacy-Led Opioid Tapering Program

Pain Med. 2021 May 21;22(5):1213-1222. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnaa442.


Objective: To identify factors that influence or interfere with referrals by primary care providers (PCPs) to a pharmacist-led telephone-based program to assist patients undergoing opioid tapering. The Support Team Onsite Resource for Management of Pain (STORM) program provides individualized patient care and supports PCPs in managing opioid tapers.

Design: Qualitative interviews were conducted with referring PCPs and STORM staff. Interview guides addressed concepts from the RE-AIM framework, focusing on issues affecting referral to the STORM program.

Setting: An integrated healthcare system (HCS) in the Northwest United States.

Subjects: Thirty-five interviews were conducted with 20 PCPs and 15 STORM staff.

Methods: Constant comparative analysis was used to identify key themes from interviews. A codebook was developed based on interview data and a qualitative software program was used for coding, iterative review, and content analysis. Representative quotes illustrate identified themes.

Results: Use of the STORM opioid tapering program was influenced by PCP, patient, and HCS considerations. Factors motivating use of STORM included lack of PCP time to support chronic pain patients requiring opioid tapering and the perception that STORM is a valued partner in patient care. Impediments to referral included PCP confidence in managing opioid tapering, patient resistance to tapering, forgetting about program availability, and PCP resistance to evolving guidelines regarding opioid tapering goals.

Conclusions: PCPs recognized that STORM supported patient safety and reduced clinician burden. Utilization of the program could be improved through ongoing PCP education about the service and consistent co-location of STORM pharmacists within primary care clinics.

Keywords: Chronic Pain; Opioid Tapering; Pharmacy; Qualitative; Referral.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid*
  • Humans
  • Northwestern United States
  • Pharmacists
  • Pharmacy*
  • Primary Health Care


  • Analgesics, Opioid