The need for greater opioid pharmacovigilance in COPD
Nicholas T Vozoris1–3
1Division of Respirology, Department of Medicine, St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada; 2Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, ON, Canada; 3Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
I read with interest the article by Ahmadi et al1 that described the use of prescription opioid drugs among Swedes with advanced COPD. The authors are to be commended for their research work on this important clinical topic. I would like to bring to the attention of your readers several points though.
Zainab Ahmadi,1 David C Currow,2 Magnus Ekström1,2
1Department of Clinical Sciences, Division of Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Lund University Hospital, Lund, Sweden; 2Discipline, Palliative and Supportive Services, Flinders University, Adelaide, SA, Australia
We thank Dr Vozoris for his insightful comments on our paper.1
The use of opioids for treating pain and the underlying evidence base for this indication was not the scope of our article. Although we agree that the evidence for treatment with opioids for “chronic” musculoskeletal pain is inconsistent or weak, we had insufficient data to determine symptom severity and whether the patients were prescribed opioids for chronic or acute pain. It should also be considered that the cited Cochrane reviews on opioids for chronic pain have weak evidence for their conclusions.2,3 The review of long-term effectiveness and safety of opioid therapy for chronic noncancer pain by Noble et al2 included 25 case series and only 1 randomized controlled trial. The clinician should carefully weigh the risk versus benefit of opioids in pain treatment, especially in the setting of clinical instability and in chronic pain. However, we think that there are many situations where opioids have an important role in treating severe distressing pain, where failure to use opioids might contribute to unnecessary suffering and treatment nihilism.
Read the original article by Ahmadi et al
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