From the Journals

Opioids, benzodiazepines carry greater risk of COPD-related hospitalization



Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease who received opioids or benzodiazepines had a greater risk of hospitalization for respiratory-related adverse events, according to recent research from Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Pill bottles spill opioid tablets and capsules sdominick/Getty Images

In addition, the risk of hospitalization because of respiratory events for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was greater when opioid and benzodiazepine medications were combined, compared with patients who did not take either medication, Jacques G. Baillargeon, PhD, of the department of preventive medicine and community health at the University of Texas, Galveston, and colleagues wrote.

“Patients with COPD and their physicians should judiciously assess the risks and benefits of opioids and benzodiazepines, alone and in combination, and preferentially recommend nonopioid and nonbenzodiazepine approaches for pain, sleep, and anxiety management in patients with COPD,” the investigators wrote.

The researchers performed a case-control study of 3,232 Medicare beneficiary cases of COPD patients who were aged at least 66 years. Patients were included if they experienced a hospitalization related to a COPD-related adverse event with a respiratory diagnosis in 2014 and then matched to one or two control patients (total, 6,247 patients) based on age at hospitalization, gender, COPD medication, COPD complexity, obstructive sleep apnea, and socioeconomic status. COPD complexity was assigned to three levels (low, moderate, high) and calculated using the patient’s comorbid respiratory conditions and associated medical procedures in the 12 months prior to their hospitalization.

They found that, in the 30 days before COPD-related hospitalization, use of opioids was associated with greater likelihood of hospitalization (adjusted odds ratio, 1.73; 95% confidence interval, 1.52-1.97), as was use of benzodiazepines (aOR, 1.42; 95% CI, 1.21-1.66). When patients used both opioids and benzodiazepines, they had a significantly higher risk of hospitalization, compared with patients who did not use opioids or benzodiazepines (aOR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.94-2.77).

In the 60 days prior to hospitalization, there was also a greater likelihood of hospitalization among COPD patients who used opioids (aOR, 1.66; 95% CI, 1.47-1.88), benzodiazepines (aOR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.24-1.67), and both opioids and benzodiazepines (aOR, 2.27; 95% CI, 1.93-2.67); at 90 days, this higher risk of hospitalization persisted among COPD patients taking opioids (aOR, 1.58; 95% CI, 1.40-1.78), benzodiazepines (aOR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.20-1.63), and both opioids and benzodiazepines (aOR, 2.21; 95% CI, 1.88-2.59).

The researchers acknowledged that one potential limitation in the study was how COPD diagnoses were obtained through coding performed by clinicians instead of from laboratory testing. Confounding by COPD indication and severity; use of over-the-counter medication or opioids and benzodiazepines received illegally; and lack of analyses of potential confounders such as diet, alcohol use, smoking status and herbal supplement use were other limitations.

This study was supported by an award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and National Institutes of Health. Dr. Baillargeon had no disclosures.

SOURCE: Baillargeon JG et al. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2019 Oct 1. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201901-024OC.

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