From the Journals

Tramadol use for noncancer pain linked with increased hip fracture risk



The risk of hip fracture was higher among patients treated with tramadol for chronic noncancer pain than among those treated with other commonly used NSAIDs in a large population-based cohort in the United Kingdom.

Illustration of hip bone iStock/Thinkstock

The incidence of hip fracture over a 12-month period among 293,912 propensity score-matched tramadol and codeine recipients in The Health Improvement Network (THIN) database during 2000-2017 was 3.7 vs. 2.9 per 1,000 person-years, respectively (hazard ratio for hip fracture, 1.28), Jie Wei, PhD, of Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, Changsha, China, and colleagues reported in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research.

Hip fracture incidence per 1,000 person-years was also higher in propensity score–matched cohorts of patients receiving tramadol vs. naproxen (2.9 vs. 1.7; HR, 1.69), ibuprofen (3.4 vs. 2.0; HR, 1.65), celecoxib (3.4 vs. 1.8; HR, 1.85), or etoricoxib (2.9 vs. 1.5; HR, 1.96), the investigators found.

Tramadol is considered a weak opioid and is commonly used for the treatment of pain based on a lower perceived risk of serious cardiovascular and gastrointestinal effects versus NSAIDs, and of addiction and respiratory depression versus traditional opioids, they explained. Several professional organizations also have “strongly or conditionally recommended tramadol” as a first- or second-line treatment for conditions such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and chronic low back pain.

The potential mechanisms for the association between tramadol and hip fracture require further study, but “[c]onsidering the significant impact of hip fracture on morbidity, mortality, and health care costs, our results point to the need to consider tramadol’s associated risk of fracture in clinical practice and treatment guidelines,” they concluded.

This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and the Postdoctoral Science Foundation of Central South University. The authors reported having no conflicts of interest.

SOURCE: Wei J et al. J Bone Miner Res. 2019 Feb 5. doi: 10.1002/jbmr.3935.

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