For millions of chronic pain sufferers worldwide, the synthetic opioid-drug Tramadol forms part of their daily medication regime. In the quarter of a century since it became available, it’s often been favoured by doctors over other opioids as a result of its lower potency and risk of addiction.
In 2014, research was published which suggested that Tramadol was associated with an increased risk of developing low blood sugar, a condition known as hypoglycaemia. Of course, this is a particular risk factor for people also suffering diabetes.
Now, researchers at the University of San Diego have published the results of a far larger study which analysed over twelve million reports from United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting System between January 2004 and March 2019. Their conclusion was quite stark, finding “evidence of increased propensity for hypoglycemia in patients taking tramadol when compared to”:
- patients taking other opioids (apart from methadone for which the results were similar);
- SNRI anti-depressants such as duloxetine and venlafaxine;
- NMDA receptors.
What does this mean?
Lead author, Dr Ruben Abagyan, said “The takeaway message is to warn physicians about the likelihood of low blood sugar (and/or high insulin content), in particular if the patient is predisposed to diabetes, and to motivate research about the unique molecular mechanism leading to that side effect.”
There is, of course, no guarantee that these finding will disseminate quickly through the medical profession. For that reason, if you are living with diabetes and are also prescribed Tramadol for chronic pain, it is certainly worth discussing these findings with your doctor.