The trilateral opioid contract: Bridging the pain clinic and the primary care physician through the opioid contract

Scott M Fishman, Gagan Mahajan, Sung Won Jung, Barth L. Wilsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We have extended the traditional use of opioid contracts to involve the primary care physician (PCP). The PCP was asked to collaborate with the pain specialist's decision to use opioids by cosigning an opioid contract. Explicit in the agreement was the understanding that the primary care physician would assume prescribing the refills for these medications once the opioid regimen had become stabilized. The present study was a retrospective chart review of the first 81 patients with non-malignant chronic pain who received an opioid agreement requiring the participation of the primary care physician. Sixty-nine of the 81 patients (85%) agreed to the terms of the contract initially, but only 50 of these 69 individuals (72%) successfully obtained their PCP's written agreement for the prescribing of opioids for chronic pain management. Despite expecting reluctance on the part of the PCP to enter into this agreement, the low compliance rate was due to lack of commitment on the part of the patient, who either refused to sign the contract outright or, after initially agreeing to sign the contract, did not have it signed by the PCP. If the PCP did not agree to sign the opioid contract, the patient was tapered off the medication. If the contract was approved and signed by the PCP, there were no subsequent reversals by this physician in terms of agreeing to continue to prescribe opioids. In all cases in which a contract was completed, the patient was successfully stabilized on an appropriate opioid regimen and then discharged back to the care of the PCP for long-term opioid treatment. The opioid contract may be an effective tool for networking specialty and primary care services in the delivery of chronic opioid therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)335-344
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2002


  • Adherence
  • Agreement
  • Compliance
  • Consent
  • Contract
  • Opioid
  • Primary care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Nursing(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The trilateral opioid contract: Bridging the pain clinic and the primary care physician through the opioid contract'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this