Introduction: Strong centrally acting analgesics, including tapentadol prolonged release (PR), have demonstrated efficacy for the management of non-malignant, chronic pain. Maintaining patient independence, including the ability to drive safely, is a key goal of long-term analgesic therapy. This multicenter, open-label, phase 3b trial evaluated the effects of tapentadol PR on driving ability.
Methods: This study included patients who had completed previous tapentadol PR trials for severe low back or osteoarthritis pain. After at least 6 weeks of dose stability, patients continued taking tapentadol PR (50-250 mg twice daily) and could take supplemental immediate-release tapentadol 50 mg, except on the day before or day of the driving test (before the test). Pain intensity was assessed using an 11-point numerical rating scale. The Vienna Test System-Traffic Plus was used to assess cognitive and psychomotor function. The key surrogate parameter for driving ability was a global judgment based on 6 battery tests.
Results: Thirty-eight patients enrolled and completed the trial, and 35 patients completed all 6 tests. Pain scores remained unchanged from enrollment to final visit [mean (standard deviation) change, -0.2 (1.0)]. Approximately two-thirds [65.7% (23/35)] of patients were classified as fit to drive based on the global judgment of driving-specific ability [34.3% (12/35) not fit to drive]. Total daily tapentadol PR dose (>200 vs. ≤200 mg/day) did not affect global judgment of driving ability (P = 0.4885). Two adverse events (considered unrelated to study drug) were reported.
Conclusion: Results suggest that most patients receiving a stable dose of tapentadol PR for severe, chronic pain would be able to drive, consistent with earlier studies evaluating stable treatment with strong opioids. Study design limitations and needs for individual patient assessment must be considered in clinical practice.