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Drugs Aging. 2005;22(5):419-32.

Dextropropoxyphene: safety and efficacy in older patients.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.


Dextropropoxyphene, alone or in combination with acetaminophen (paracetamol), is among the most frequently prescribed opioid analgesics in the elderly in the US despite the American Geriatric Society recommendation that its use should be restricted. However, this recommendation is based on expert opinion in an apparent absence of data. Accordingly, we conducted a literature search which identified nine studies that reported efficacy and safety data for dextropropoxyphene in predominantly older patients (> or = 55 years of age). These studies were evaluated to assess the efficacy and safety of dextropropoxyphene compared with other opioids and to evaluate whether safety and tolerability differed in older versus younger patients. The efficacy of dextropropoxyphene appeared to be similar to that of other analgesics, and its safety was comparable to that of other opioid analgesics. Although the adverse event profile suggests that elderly patients might have more frequent gastrointestinal and CNS complaints than younger patients treated with dextropropoxyphene, the frequency of reports appears similar to that of other opioids. The incidences of dizziness and somnolence were not significantly greater in older patients (1-2% and 0-21%, respectively) than in younger patients (8% and 13%, respectively). The absence of clinical studies directly addressing the safety and tolerability of dextropropoxyphene in elderly patients (>65 years of age) versus younger patients encumbers assessment of the validity of restricting its use in the elderly. Careful outcomes research is needed to assess the effectiveness and safety of dextropropoxyphene in older patients and to develop evidence-based risk/benefit prescribing criteria for use of this drug in this age group.

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