A recent study has demonstrated that new opioid use among older patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with an increased risk for adverse respiratory outcomes and mortality.
In this retrospective population-based cohort study, 130 979 community-dwelling individuals with COPD, who were 66 years or older, were evaluated for the risk of adverse respiratory outcomes associated with incident opioid use. They found new opioid use to be associated with significantly increased emergency room visits for COPD or pneumonia, COPD or pneumonia-related mortality, and all-cause mortality. This risk was greater when more potent opioids were used.
These findings are particularly relevant, as opioids are commonly prescribed in patients with COPD to aid with chronic musculoskeletal pain, insomnia and refractory respiratory symptoms. The authors hope these results prompt physicians to take an individualised approach when administering opioids to older adults with COPD, and counsel patients on the potential adverse events which may accompany symptom relief from opioids.