Tramadol Causes Health Problems for Osteoarthritis Sufferers

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Researchers at Arthritis Research Canada have found that people with osteoarthritis who started taking tramadol, an opioid pain medication, were at a 20-50 per cent greater risk of mortality, 70 per cent greater risk of blood clots, and 40-60 per cent greater risk of hip fractures when compared to people who started using drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen.

“These are incredibly important findings because tramadol use is on the rise globally – especially by people living with osteoarthritis,” said Dr. Antonio Aviña-Zubieta, a rheumatologist and senior scientist at Arthritis Research Canada.

Previous studies have found that tramadol is associated with nausea, dizziness, constipation, tiredness, headache, vomiting, and drowsiness, and when compared with use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen, tramadol is associated with a greater risk of mortality, heart attacks, and hip fractures in people with osteoarthritis. A recent study also found that it is no better than aspirin and ibuprofen in relieving pain for those with OA.

Tramadol is recommended by the 2013 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons guidelines and recommended conditionally by the 2012 American College of Rheumatology guidelines for knee osteoarthritis.

“This research, combined with evidence from prior studies, suggests current guidelines on tramadol use need to be revised to ensure the health and safety of patients – especially since there is no difference in pain relief compared to drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen,” Aviña-Zubieta said.

In the United States, 44 million tramadol prescriptions were given in 2014. In the United Kingdom, the prevalence of osteoarthritis patients with a tramadol prescription increased from three to 10 per cent from 2000 to 2015. In British Columbia, tramadol has been the second most commonly prescribed opioid agonist since 2008.

To learn more about this research, please click here.


Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.

SOURCE Arthritis Research Canada

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