Benefits of extended-release opioid analgesic formulations in the treatment of chronic pain

Pain Pract. Jan-Feb 2009;9(1):71-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-2500.2008.00232.x. Epub 2008 Oct 27.


Chronic noncancer pain represents a major health problem that affects many patients, resulting in suffering, reduced productivity, and substantial health care costs. The patient with chronic noncancer pain is burdened by decreased quality of life, decreased sleep, interference with social relationships, diminished cognitive functions, interference with activities of daily living, decreased productivity, and increased anxiety and depression. A survey examining the burden of pain on health and productivity found decreases of 45% in physical health and 23% in mental health at a cost of $61.2 billion per year in productive work time. An American Pain Society survey of 800 patients with moderate to severe chronic pain reported that 47% felt their pain was not under control. The goal of pharmacological therapy for chronic noncancer pain is to provide sustained analgesia. Chronic pain management guidelines recommend the use of long-acting, extended-release (ER) analgesics because they provide prolonged, more consistent plasma concentrations of drug compared with short-acting agents, thus minimizing fluctuations that could contribute to end-of-dose breakthrough pain. ER analgesics offer more consistent and improved nighttime pain control, less need to awaken at night to take another dose of pain medication, and less clock-watching by patients in chronic noncancer pain. Among the available ER opioids, tramadol ER possesses a unique mechanism of action, making it a viable opioid of first choice for patients suffering from a variety of chronic noncancer pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis, low back pain, and neuropathic pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Delayed-Action Preparations*
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy*


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Delayed-Action Preparations