Practical and clinical use of opioids

University dissertation from Linköping : Linköping University Electronic Press

Abstract: Pain is a common symptom of a number of conditions including cancer and one of the most frequent reasons for seeking healthcare. Acute and chronic pain result in considerable discomfort with a detrimental impact on the quality of life. Opioids are the mainstay of pain management for many patients with severe pain. Opioids are, unfortunately, also commonly abused drugs, and are well-represented in forensic toxicology investigations.Side effects related to the central nervous system are the major reasons fordiscontinuation of opioid treatment. In this thesis, we tested the hypothesis that local analgesic treatment by opioids, without the usual opioid-related side effects, could be a potential alternative to systemic opioid treatment. We examined the analgesic effect of topically applied morphine in a randomized, double blind, cross over study in patients with painful leg ulcers. Significant reduction of pain was obtained after application of both morphine and placebo gel. Morphine reduced pain more than placebo but the difference was not statistically significant. However, morphine could reduce pain considerably more than placebo in those cases where VAS (Visual analog scale) was higher initially.Another issue with opioid therapy is the substantial individual variability in response to opioids including morphine and tramadol. We investigated the significance of UGT2B7, CYP2D6, OPRM1 and ABCB1 polymorphisms for pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of morphine and tramadol. We showed that genetic variants in CYP2D6 and UGT2B7 have an important role in the metabolism of tramadol and morphine respectively. While the role of SNPs in ABCB1 remained unclear, genetic variants in OPRM1 gene were correlated with the required dose of morphine. Taken together, these findings suggest that genotypes should be taken into consideration when interpreting clinical pharmacology and forensic toxicology results.Opioids, besides their analgesic properties, have other pharmacological effects including effects on immune system. We evaluated potential differences between commonly used opiates with regard to their effect on the immune system. We found an inhibition of cytokine release, in the order of potency as follows: tramadol > ketobemidone >morphine >fentanyl. All opioids with the exception of fentanyl were capable of inhibiting production of mRNAs for TNF-alpha and IL-8. Further studies are needed to understand the clinical implications of the observed immunosuppressive effects of opioids and to improve opioid treatment strategies in patients with cancer.Here, we have found that individual genotype matters and affects the individual response. Further research is warranted to tailor individualized treatment. Personalized medicine has increased in importance and will hopefully in the near future become standard procedure to improve and predict the outcome of treatment by opioids.