Effectiveness and tolerability of tapentadol prolonged release compared with prior opioid therapy for the management of severe, chronic osteoarthritis pain

Clin Drug Investig. 2013 Sep;33(9):607-19. doi: 10.1007/s40261-013-0102-0.


Background: Tapentadol prolonged release (PR; 100-250 mg twice daily) has been efficacious and well tolerated for managing moderate-to-severe, chronic osteoarthritis hip or knee pain in phase 3 studies with washout of previous analgesic treatment.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and tolerability of tapentadol PR (50-250 mg twice daily) after direct rotation from World Health Organization (WHO) step III opioids in patients with severe osteoarthritis knee pain who previously responded to WHO step III therapy but showed poor tolerability.

Methods: This open-label, phase 3b study (NCT00982280) was conducted from October 2009 through June 2010 (prematurely terminated due to slow recruitment and study drug shortages) in clinical care settings in Europe and Australia. The study population included patients with severe, chronic osteoarthritis knee pain who had taken WHO step III opioids daily for ≥2 weeks before screening, responded to therapy (average pain intensity [11-point numerical rating scale-3 (NRS-3)] ≤5 at screening), and reported opioid-related adverse effects as their reason for changing analgesics. Patients switched directly from WHO step III therapy to tapentadol. Patients received oral tapentadol PR (50-250 mg twice daily) during 5-week titration and 7-week maintenance periods. Oral tapentadol immediate release (IR) was permitted (≤twice/day, ≥4 h apart) for acute pain episodes due to index pain or withdrawal symptoms following discontinuation of previous opioids (combined dose of tapentadol [PR and IR] ≤500 mg/day). This study was planned to evaluate conversion to tapentadol PR, based on responder rate 1 (percentage of patients with same/less pain [NRS-3] versus Week -1) at Week 6 (primary endpoint), adverse events (AEs), and discontinuation rates. Equianalgesic ratios were calculated for tapentadol prior to WHO step III opioids (PR and PR plus IR formulations).

Results: Of 82 patients enrolled, 63 received study medication. In the per-protocol population, responder rate 1 at Week 6 (last observation carried forward) was 94.3 % (50/53; P < 0.0001 vs. the null hypothesis rate [<60 %]). Mean (standard deviation) pain intensity scores were 4.7 (0.66) at baseline, 2.5 (1.46) at Week 6, and 1.8 (1.41) at Week 12 in the main analysis population (change from baseline at Weeks 6 and 12, P < 0.0001). Tapentadol to transdermal buprenorphine equianalgesic ratios (PR [n = 48], 262.9:1; PR plus IR [n = 48], 281.1:1) and tapentadol to oral oxycodone equianalgesic ratios (PR [n = 4], 4.3:1; PR plus IR [n = 6], 4.6:1) were calculated for the main analysis population. In the safety population, prevalence of AEs reported as associated with prior opioids at Week -1 (reasons for rotation) and related to tapentadol treatment at Week 12 decreased over time; the most common were nausea (46.0 vs. 24.1 %) and constipation (31.7 vs. 7.4 %). Overall, 14.3 % of patients discontinued the study early; reasons included AEs (9.5 %), lack of efficacy (3.2 %), and withdrawal of consent (1.6 %).

Conclusions: Significant improvements in effectiveness were observed for tapentadol PR (50-250 mg twice daily) versus WHO step III opioids in patients with severe, chronic osteoarthritis knee pain who previously responded to WHO step III therapy. Equianalgesic ratios were calculated for tapentadol to transdermal buprenorphine and oral oxycodone and were in line with observations from previous phase 3 studies.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / drug therapy
  • Phenols / adverse effects
  • Phenols / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu / agonists*
  • Tapentadol


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Phenols
  • Receptors, Opioid, mu
  • Tapentadol