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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of a short interactive training program for general practitioners (GP) on pain management in patients with osteoarthritis (OA). METHODS: A multicenter, parallel-group study. GP were randomized to receive training on relationships and communication, pain evaluation, prescription, and negotiation of a patient contract or to a control group receiving a presentation about obtaining consent in trials. Outcomes were patient assessments of pain and functional ability. We invited 1500 GP to take part in the study. Those who volunteered to receive the training recruited outpatients from May 2001 to April 2002. Patients participating in the evaluation of the effects of the general practitioners' training had lower limb OA and pain on motion [> or = 40 mm on a visual analog scale (VAS)] and had indications for treatment with acetaminophen. The primary endpoint: sum of patient pain relief based on the daily VAS self-evaluation during the 2 weeks of the trial. RESULTS: In total, 180 GP (84 trained, 96 nontrained) enrolled 842 patients (414 and 428, respectively). Mean baseline VAS pain was 63 +/- 14 mm. Patients in the trained-GP group had better overall pain relief (316 +/- 290 mm/day vs 265 +/- 243 mm; p < 0.0001), greater improvement in Lequesne and WOMAC scores (p < 0.0001), and better overall perception of treatment (p = 0.002). Acetaminophen use was slightly higher in the trained group; however, the difference in pain relief remained statistically significant (p = 0.0003) after adjustment for this difference. CONCLUSION: This is the first study to demonstrate a positive effect of physician training on patients with a painful condition.