Priority-Setting to Address the Geriatric Pharmacoparadox for Pain Management: A Nursing Home Stakeholder Delphi Study

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Background: Evidence to guide clinical decision making for pain management in nursing home residents is scant. Objective: Our objective was to explore the extent of consensus among expert stakeholders regarding what analgesic issues should be prioritized for comparative-effectiveness studies of beneficial and adverse effects of analgesic regimens in nursing home residents. Methods: Two stakeholder panels (nurses only and a mix of clinicians/researchers) were engaged (n = 83). During a three-round online modified Delphi process, participants rated and commented on the need for new evidence on nonopioid analgesic regimens and opioid regimens, short-term adverse effects, long-term adverse effects, comorbid conditions, and other factors in the nursing home setting (9-point scale; 1 = not essential to 9 = very essential to obtain new evidence). The quantitative data were analyzed to determine the existence of consensus using an approach from the RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method User’s Manual. The qualitative data, consisting of participant explanations of their numeric ratings, were thematically analyzed by an experienced qualitative researcher. Results: For nursing home residents, evidence generation was deemed essential for opioids, gabapentin (alone or with serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors [SNRIs]), and nonsteroid anti-inflammatory drugs with SNRIs. Experts prioritized the following outcomes as essential: long-term adverse effects, including delirium, cognitive decline, and decline in activities of daily living (ADLs). Kidney disease and depression were deemed essential conditions to consider in studies of pain medications. Coprescribing analgesic regimens with benzodiazepines, sedating medications, serotonergic medications, and non-SNRI antidepressants were considered essential areas of study. Experts noted that additional study was essential in residents with moderate/severe cognitive impairment and limitations in ADLs. Conclusions: Stakeholder priorities for more evidence reflect concerns related to treating medically complex residents with complex drug regimens and included long-term adverse effects, coprescribing, and sedating medications. Carefully conducted observational studies are needed to address the vast evidence gap for nursing home residents.

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Drugs and Aging