Incident opioid drug use and adverse respiratory outcomes among older adults with COPD

Nicholas T. Vozoris, Xuesong Wang, Hadas D. Fischer, Chaim M. Bell, Denis E. O’Donnell, Peter C. Austin, Anne L. Stephenson, Sudeep S. Gill, Paula A. Rochon
European Respiratory Journal 2016; DOI: 10.1183/13993003.01967-2015


We evaluated risk of adverse respiratory outcomes associated with incident opioid use among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).

This was a retrospective population-based cohort study using a validated algorithm applied to health administrative data to identify adults aged 66 years and older with COPD. Inverse probability of treatment weighting using the propensity score was used to estimate hazard ratios comparing adverse respiratory outcomes within 30 days of incident opioid use compared to controls.

Incident opioid use was associated with significantly increased emergency room visits for COPD or pneumonia (HR 1.14, 95% CI 1.00–1.29; p=0.04), COPD or pneumonia-related mortality (HR 2.16, 95% CI 1.61–2.88; p<0.0001) and all-cause mortality (HR 1.76, 95% CI 1.57–1.98; p<0.0001), but significantly decreased outpatient exacerbations (HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.83–0.94; p=0.0002). Use of more potent opioid-only agents was associated with significantly increased outpatient exacerbations, emergency room visits and hospitalisations for COPD or pneumonia, and COPD or pneumonia-related and all-cause mortality.

Incident opioid use, and in particular use of the generally more potent opioid-only agents, was associated with increased risk for adverse respiratory outcomes, including respiratory-related mortality, among older adults with COPD. Potential adverse respiratory outcomes should be considered when prescribing new opioids in this population.

In English Care should be taken when considering prescribing opioids to patients with COPD

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