Leading researchers from University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust have developed a unique guide for clinicians across Europe to help patients suffering from the unpleasant side effects of taking medication for cancer and chronic pain.
For the first time, clinicians in Europe will be able to use the guide - or European Consensus Statement – which addresses the difficulties in diagnosing, and offers a pragmatic approach to those managing, constipation caused by opioid therapy.
Opioid-induced Constipation (OIC) is currently an under-recognised and undertreated complication of receiving opioid therapy, occurring in 52-87% of patients receiving opioids for cancer and around half (41-57%) of patients receiving opioids for chronic non-cancer pain.
Dr Adam Farmer, Consultant Gastroenterologist, Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of Research and Development at UHNM, who led the project, said: "Opioid-induced constipation has a significant impact on a patient's quality of life, yet in many cases it remains an unreported side-effect. As a result, patients often attempt to alleviate their symptoms by decreasing the dose or stopping their pain medication altogether.
"We hope our research and the consensus statement will lead to better recognition of the condition and make a positive impact on the lives of patients affected by this condition not only here in the UK but across Europe. The consensus statement will improve doctors' knowledge and in turn, their understanding about how best to treat the condition."
The research findings - Pathophysiology and Management of Opioid-Induced Constipation: European Expert Consensus Statement – have been published in the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) Journal.
Dr Farmer said: "Effective management of constipation caused by opioid therapy requires early recognition but patients' reluctance to report symptoms means the condition often goes unrecognised.
"The Consensus Statement makes specific recommendations for the management of OIC, including educating patients about the side effects of opioids, co-prescription of a laxative, dietary and lifestyle modifications and asking patients about their side-effects."