From 1990 through 1993, only 10% of patients with IBD were prescribed opioids, vs. 30% from 2010 through 2013 (P less than .005). After the investigators controlled for numerous demographic and clinical variables, being prescribed a strong opioid (morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, buprenorphine, methadone, hydromorphone, or pethidine) more than three times per year significantly correlated with all-cause mortality in both Crohn’s disease (hazard ratio, 2.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-4.0) and ulcerative colitis (HR, 3.3; 95% CI, 1.8-6.2),.Among patients with ulcerative colitis, more moderate use of strong opioids (one to three prescriptions annually) also significantly correlated with all-cause mortality (HR, 2.4; 95% CI, 1.2-5.2), as did heavy use of codeine (HR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1-3.1), but these associations did not reach statistical significance among patients with Crohn’s disease. Tramadol was not linked to mortality in either IBD subtype when used alone or in combination with codeine.
Dr. Burr and his associates said they could not control for several important potential confounders, including fistulating disease, quality of life, mental illness, substance abuse, and history of abuse, all of which have been linked to opioid use in IBD. Nonetheless, they found dose-dependent correlations with mortality that highlight a need for pharmacovigilance of opioids in IBD, particularly given dramatic increases in prescriptions, they said. These were primary care data, which tend to accurately reflect long-term medication use, they noted.
Crohn’s and Colitis U.K. and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Charitable Foundation provided funding. The investigators reported having no conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: Burr NE et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol.