BMA lobbying

Chronic pain: supporting safer prescribing of analgesics

This briefing paper was first published in 2017 and highlights some of the key issues surrounding the use of analgesics in the management of patients with chronic pain.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Monday 7 September 2020
Topics: Population health
Public Health Article Illustration

What you will get from this briefing

  • Methods of supporting the safer prescribing of analgesics.
  • Assessment of the role of analgesics in pain management.


Key findings

  • Over recent years there have been significant increases in opioid prescribing for chronic pain, and the annual cost opioid prescribing in the UK has risen to over £330 million.
  • Chronic pain is complex: An estimated 49% of patients in the UK suffering from chronic pain also suffer from depression.
  • Pain management is best delivered by multidisciplinary teams, yet there is high variation in access to specialist pain management services across the UK.


  • Defining chronic pain
  • Prevalence of chronic pain
  • Analgesic drugs
  • UK trends in prescribing for chronic pain
  • Exploring the evidence of analgesic use in chronic pain
  • Potential harms associated with long-term use of analgesics
  • Supporting the management of patients with chronic pain
  • Role of education and training in improving analgesic treatment
  • Conclusion and summary of recommendations