Popular painkillers may increase your risk of hypoglycemia

Scientists from the University of California at San Diego found that the risks of hypoglycemia with tramadol are ten times higher than for other painkillers.

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — According to researchers published in Scientific Reports, the risk of hypoglycemia for a patient using tramadol is ten times higher than with other painkillers of the opioid series. The same when compared with similar non-opioid drugs – serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or NMDA antagonists, such as ketamine and memantine.

In addition to tramadol, only methadone, an opioid, which is used in narcology for substitution therapy of severe drug addiction, gives a comparable risk. However, methadone isn’t the only opioid agonist used to fight opioid dependence with companies like this providing addicts with suboxone.

Tramadol is an opioid-class pain medication. It is often used in chronic patients with severe enough pain. Due to the relatively lower side effects and the “abuse potential” compared to other powerful opioid analgesics, it is more likely to be prescribed than other opioids. In particular, it is actively used in the treatment of pain syndromes in the treatment of diabetes.

At the same time, doctors previously did not have data on the relationship between the use of tramadol and hypoglycemia – pathologically low blood glucose. Hypoglycemia is often associated with diabetes (although it can develop on its own) and without control and treatment leads to complications.

The relationship of drugs and the risk of hypoglycemia was established by processing data from more than 12 million reports of side effects when taking medications. To do this, we used the archives of the US Food and Drug Administration’s side effect reporting systems for the past 15 years.

The authors of the article note that earlier the connection of tramadol with hypoglycemia was not indicated among the side effects. However, in earlier works, experts already suggested that this could be – but only on the basis of animal testing. Now there is convincing evidence of the relationship of pain medication and hypoglycemia in humans.

This will draw the attention of doctors to the need to control sugar levels in patients taking tramadol (or methadone), and will force a more selective approach to the prescription of drugs.

“The stimulus [for the study] was the recent sharp surge in the popularity of tramadol and its prescriptions,” notes one of the study’s authors, Dr. Tigran Makunts. “We wanted to get an objective, data-based look at its undesirable effects and faced with dangerous, unlisted and unexpected hypoglycemia.”

Scientists emphasize that it is too early to talk about specific causal mechanisms of communication and in order to find them, separate studies are needed.


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