Publication date: May 15, 2019
American researchers found that tramadol, an increasingly prescribed post-surgery painkiller that was thought to be less addictive than other opioids, is actually every bit as dangerous.
The team found that at least seven per cent of patients refilled their opioid prescription three to six months after surgery – and the most commonly prescribed opioid was tramadol.
“Tramadol essentially has a similar risk of long-term dependence or long-term opioid use compared to other opIoids. “
The agency noticed a risk of serious breathing problems in some patients who metabolize tramadol quickly, and is now considering tightening regulations for the drug.
“Evidence showed that high doses of tramadol have the same risks of dependency and problematic use as stronger opioids, such as morphine,” Health Canada spokesperson Maryse Durette said in an email.
“The patient said, ‘I’d rather not go on opioids,’ and the surgeon said, ‘Well, here’s some tramadol,’ apparently not realizing that tramadol is converted to an opioid,” said Juurlink, who is also a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto.
That’s why Juurlink has called on Health Canada to act immediately to reclassify tramadol under the Narcotic Control Regulations.
By reclassifying tramadol from a prescription drug to a narcotic, doctors would no longer be able to phone in prescription renewals for it without first seeing the patient to discuss if he or she still needs it.
If and when Health Canada’s proposed regulations that would add tramadol to its Schedule 1 list of drugs with the highest risk of dependence are enacted, they would go into effect a year later.
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