Introduction: Chronic pain reduces quality of life, utilizes healthcare resources, and increases healthcare costs. It is widespread, but generally inadequately treated or managed, partly due to several obstacles, including a limited number of mechanistic options for long-term pharmacologic agents. Opioids are generally the primary class of analgesic prescribed, but because of associated side effects during long-term treatment, many patients become noncompliant or discontinue treatment. A long-term use analgesic with a good benefit/risk ratio is advantageous.
Methods: A literature search for randomized trials using tapentadol extended release (ER) for noncancer chronic pain patients was conducted. Databases searched included PubMed, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Google Scholar, using key terms "tapentadol," "prolonged release," "extended release," and "chronic pain" individually or in combination. The results were synthesized and evaluated.
Results: A total of six randomized, controlled studies were identified. Chronic pain conditions analyzed included low back, osteoarthritis, and diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Treatment arms consisted most often of placebo, tapentadol ER (100-250 mg twice daily [b.i.d.]), and/or oxycodone CR (controlled release) (20-50 mg b.i.d.). Subjects treated with tapentadol ER had significant reduction in pain intensity compared to placebo controls and similar efficacy to oxycodone CR. Overall, the safety profile was superior to that of oxycodone CR in regards to reduction in side effects, reduced severity of side effects (particularly gastrointestinal related), and lower study discontinuation rates.
Conclusion: The two mechanisms of analgesic action of tapentadol, combined with an ER, appears to provide equal efficacy to a strong controlled-release opioid while providing greater gastrointestinal tolerability. The reduction in incidence and severity of gastrointestinal side effects correlated with a higher compliance rate. These findings suggest that tapentadol ER might be a viable alternative to conventional strong opioids for pain management for chronic pain patients.