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Activity description

113242 - The OPAL study (the first placebo-controlled trial of Opioid Analgesia for Acute Spinal Pain)

The George Institute for Global Health, Australia

Do you think opioids should be used in people with acute spinal pain?

The OPAL study is a GP Research Activity which will investigate the important question of whether a short course of an opioid analgesic reduces pain severity compared to placebo in patients with acute spinal pain. The study will also investigate drug tolerability and long term risk of opioid misuse. We need GPs to help answer this important question.

GPs are required to identify and screen patients suitable for opioid treatment. After gaining consent, GPs will prescribe the study medication and continue to review the patient for a maximum of 6 weeks. At the end of the study, GPs will reflect on the results of their patients compared to the overall study results.

The study is NH&MRC funded and is run by an experienced team at The University of Sydney School of Public Health and The George Institute for Global Health. It is designed to integrate as closely as possible into normal clinical practice.

Relevance to General Practice

Low back pain and neck pain are extremely prevalent and are responsible for an enormous burden of disease in Australia and globally. Opioid analgesics are widely and increasingly used in low back pain and neck pain, but there are no efficacy data supporting this. Concerns regarding opioid use are further heightened by the risk of adverse events, some of which can be serious.

Results of the OPAL study will be critical in providing robust evidence to inform the safe and appropriate use of opioid analgesics in acute spinal pain.

Learning outcomes

  1. The GP will learn to identify a situation where the use of an opioid medication for the treatment of low back pain or neck pain may be indicated.
  2. The GP will be able to determine whether an opioid medication in addition to guideline care is more effective than placebo in addition to guideline care
  3. The GP will develop a weekly monitoring system when prescribing opioids for low back pain or neck pain, to monitor the effectiveness of the drug and the patient

Domains of General Practice

D1. Communication skills and the patient-doctor relationship
  • Ways in which health can be optimised and maintained are communicated to patients, family members and carers

D2. Applied professional knowledge and skills
  • Continuity of care promotes quality and safety

D3. Population health and the context of general practice
  • Current and emerging public health risks are effectively managed

D4. Professional and ethical role
  • Professional knowledge and skills are reviewed and developed

D5. Organisational and legal dimensions
  • Shared decision making and informed consent are explained and obtained

Curriculum Contextual Units

  • Adult health
  • Addiction medicine
  • Musculoskeletal and sports medicine
  • Pain management
  • General practice research

Partnering organisations

School of Public Health University of Sydney The George Institute for Global Health

Activity sponsor

QI activity

Session summary


Tuesday 26 Sep 2017 12:00am - Tuesday 31 Dec 2019 12:00am

This activity is readily available at any time


The George Institutue






All attendees welcome

Target Audience


For more information contact...

Hanan McLachlan
T: 02 8627 6244