Appropriate use of tapentadol: focus on the optimal tapering strategy
Objective: Due to its opioid and non-opioid mechanism of action, tapentadol is considered an atypical opioid with improved gastrointestinal tolerability versus traditional opioids. As for all opioid analgesics it is important to understand how to discontinue a treatment when it is not needed anymore. The aim of this article was to provide an overview of opioid therapy in non-cancer pain, with a specific focus on tapering of tapentadol in patients with chronic non-cancer pain, and suggestions on how to achieve tapering.
Methods: Studies for this narrative review were identified via PubMed using a structured search strategy, focusing on management of chronic non-cancer pain with opioids, and the efficacy, tolerability, and pharmacology of tapentadol prolonged release. Publications were limited to English-language articles published within the last ∼10 years.
Results: The review discusses the use and discontinuation of opioids in general, as well clinical data on discontinuation of tapentadol specifically. We provide a flow chart, which can be used by clinicians in the context of their own clinical experience to appropriately taper tapentadol in patients with chronic non-cancer pain. The flow chart can be easily tailored to individual patient characteristics, duration of tapentadol treatment, response to progressive dosage reduction, and likelihood of withdrawal symptom occurrence.
Conclusions: While tapentadol is associated with a low frequency of opioid withdrawal symptoms after abrupt discontinuation, use of a tapering strategy is prudent. Tapering strategies developed for opioids in general can potentially be safely individualized in tapentadol-treated patients, although research on tapering strategies for tapentadol is required.