The current clinical use of adjuvant analgesics for refractory cancer pain in Japan: A nationwide cross-sectional survey

Keita Tagami, Hiromichi Matsuoka, Keisuke Ariyoshi, Shunsuke Oyamada, Yusuke Hiratsuka, Yoshiyuki Kizawa, Atsuko Koyama, Akira Inoue

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Although adjuvant analgesics are used to treat opioid-refractory cancer pain, there is insufficient evidence to support this practice and limited data to guide the choice depending on cancer pain pathophysiology, dose titration and starting dose. This survey aimed to clarify the current use of adjuvant analgesics for treating opioid-refractory cancer pain. Methods: In this cross-sectional study, we sent an online survey questionnaire to 208 certified palliative care specialists. Primary outcomes were (i) effective pathophysiological mechanism of cancer pain and (ii) initiating doses and time period to the first response to each adjuvant analgesic therapy. Results: In total, 87 (42%) palliative care specialists responded. Of all patients with cancer pain, 40% of patients (median) with refractory cancer pain were prescribed adjuvant analgesics. Additionally, 94.3, 93.1 and 86.2% of palliative care specialists found dexamethasone/betamethasone effective for neuropathic pain caused by tumor-related spinal cord compression, pregabalin effective for malignant painful radiculopathy and dexamethasone/betamethasone effective for brain tumor or leptomeningeal metastases-related headache, respectively. The median starting dose of pregabalin, dexamethasone/betamethasone, lidocaine and ketamine were 75, 4, 200, and 50 mg/day, respectively, and the median time to the first response of those medications were 5, 3, 2 and 3 days, respectively. Conclusions: Many palliative care specialists select adjuvant analgesics depending on the pathophysiological mechanism of cancer pain in each case. They used such adjuvant analgesics in low doses for cancer pain with short first-response periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1434-1441
Number of pages8
JournalJapanese journal of clinical oncology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1


  • adjuvant analgesics
  • analgesics
  • cancer pain
  • palliative care
  • refractory pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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