POINT Study (Pain and Opioids IN Treatment)

Tags: opioids
Date Commenced:
Expected Date of Completion:
Project Supporters:

National Health and Medical Research Council

Drug Type:
Pain and opioids in treatment (POINT) project
Project Members
image - 1354256671 Michael Farrell Square
Professor and Director
Ph EA Jemma Sale: 02 9385 0292 / j.sale@unsw.edu.au
image - 1314150815 Larance Briony 10
Research Fellow
Ph 02 9385 0333
image - Suzanne Nielsen Square
Aus Postdoc R/Fellow NH&MRC
Ph 02 8936 1017
image - 1314143637 Campbell Gabrielle 08
Senior Research Officer
Ph 02 9385 0286
image - 1354251698 Bianca Hoban Square
Research Assistant
Ph 02 9385 0333
image - Ranira Moodley Square
Research Assistant
Ph 02 9385 0333
Project Collaborators: External

Dr Fiona Shand (Black Dog Institute, University of New South Wales)

Professor Wayne Hall (University of Queensland)

A/Prof. Milton Cohen (St. Vincent’s Hospital, Pain Clinic)

A/Prof. Nick Lintzeris (University of Sydney/SESIAHS)

Dr Raimondo Bruno (University of Tasmania)

Project Main Description

There has been a recent increase in the prescribing of pharmaceutical opioids in Australia which has lead to increasing professional and public concern about the use and harms that may be related to such use. Despite this, there is very little known about the magnitude of risk for adverse events. Previous Australian research has had limited duration (~ 12 weeks) and/or have not examined aberrant drug use behaviours. This current study is to be the first Australian study to examine the patterns of prescribing for individual patients, and the outcomes for these patients in the longer term.

  1. To examine the rates, patterns and duration of opioid analgesic prescribing at across Australia
  2. To estimate the population-level risk of adverse events among those prescribed opioids, including incidence of hospital stays, transfer to opioid substitution treatment, and mortality
  3. To examine the natural history of opioid analgesic use in a cohort of patients prescribed opioids for chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP)
  4. To examine the demographic and clinical predictors of adverse events among a cohort of CNCP patients, including opioid abuse or dependence, medication diversion, other drug use, and overdose
  5. To identify factors which predict poor self-reported pain relief and other indicators of clinical outcomes.
Design and Method

The POINT study is a national prospective cohort that aims to follow 1500 chronic pain patients newly prescribed pharmaceutical opioids over a 24 month period. Follow-ups will occur at three months, 12 months and 24 months. The interviews will cover topics such as; demographics, chronic pain, treatment, physical and mental health, physical functioning, social support and current and lifetime substance use. Participants will be recruited through pharmacies throughout Australia. We will continue to follow patients that discontinue their pharmaceutical opioid in order to examine reasons and effects of discontinuance. 


The POINT study successfully completed the recruitment of 1,500 participants in March 2014. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the pharmacies across Australia that assisted us with recruitment, we could not have done this without their support. Follow-ups are still underway, with participants being followed-up at 3-months, 12-months and 24-months after their initial interview. Participant interviews will be completed early 2016. 


Published papers

  1. Campbell G;  Mattick RP; Bruno RB; Larance B; Nielsen S; Cohen M; Lintzeris N; Shand F; Hall W; Hoban B; Kehler C; Farrell, M; and Degenhardt, L. (2014) Cohort protocol paper: The Pain and Opioids IN Treatment (POINT) studyBMC Pharmacology and Toxicology, 15:17. DOI: 10.1186/2050-6511-15-17.

  2. Belcher J; Campbell G; Hoban B; Larance B; Degenhardt L; Nielsen S; Lintzeris N; Bruno R. (2014). Diversion of prescribed opioids by people living with chronic pain: Results from an Australian community sampleDrug and Alcohol Review, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 27 – 32. DOI: 10.1111/dar.12084.

  3. Degenhardt, L and Gilmour, S and Shand, R and Bruno, RB and Campbell, G and Mattick, RP and Larance, B and Hall, W. (2013) Estimating the proportion of prescription opioids that is consumed by people who inject drugs in Australia, Drug and Alcohol Review, 32, (5) pp. 1-18. DOI: 10.1111/dar.12066.

  4. Shand, F., Campbell, G., Hall, W., Lintzeris, N., Cohen, M., Degenhardt, L. (2013). Real time monitoring of Schedule 8 medicines in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 198 (2) 80-81.



  1. Campbell, G. (2013). Trends in pharmaceutical prescribing, diversion, misuse and harms, Australia. Presentation at NSW Pharmacy Guild Workshop, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 13 May 2013.
  2. Campbell, G., Hoban, B. and Martin, A. (2013) POINT: Pain and Opioids IN Treatment study: Preliminary findings. Presentation at the NDARC in-house seminar series, Sydney, NSW Australia, May 2013.
  3. Campbell, G. and Hoban, B (2013). POINT: Pain and Opioids IN Treatment study: Preliminary findings. Invited to present at the National Pharmacy Guild Conference, Sydney Convention Centre, 22 June, 2013.



  1. Hoban, B., Larance, B., Gisev, N., Campbell, G., Belcher, J., Bruno, R., Nielsen, S., Shand, F., Hall, W., Cohen, M, Lintzeries, N., Farell, M., Mattick, R., Degenhardt, L. (2013) The therapeutic and above therapeutic use of paracetamol among chronic non-cancer pain patients. Poster presented at NDARC annual symposium, University of New South Wales, 4 September 2013.

This project will be the first large-scale Australian prospective cohort study to rigorously examine opioid analgesic prescribing patterns amongst chronic pain patients at a population level, and their relationship to important health outcomes and to mortality. This study will be the first to comprehensively examine the extent, to which opioid therapy for chronic pain is associated with pain reduction, adverse events including side effects, quality of life, and mental and physical health outcomes.

The study will shed light on the extent to which patients experience problematic opioid use, some of the precursors and protective factors to problematic use, and the consequences of problematic opioid use resulting from chronic opioid therapy. It will lead to improved knowledge of dose escalation and the positive and negative outcomes for those who undergo rapid dose escalation and ultimately end up using high doses of opioid analgesics.

Currently, the evidence base for the regulation and monitoring of opioid analgesics is weak. Regulators across jurisdictions currently use different criteria for authorising long-term opioid therapy, and different criteria for identifying at-risk patients. The results of this study will assist doctors and regulators in Australia to better identify those patients who are at risk of adverse outcomes and who therefore require alternative treatment strategies. Improved understanding of the longer-term outcomes of chronic opioid therapy will direct community-based interventions and health policy in Australia.

Finally, the project will achieve the establishment of a cohort of Australians with chronic health problems. The project will provide the groundwork for further follow-up of the sample to determine the longer-term outcomes for chronic pain patients.

Project Supporters

National Health and Medical Research Council

Drug Type
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