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Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2009 Jan;117(1):38-43. doi: 10.1055/s-2008-1076715. Epub 2008 Jun 3.

Oral opioids for chronic non-cancer pain: higher prevalence of hypogonadism in men than in women.

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Department of Medicine, Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


The effect of chronic oral opioids on hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis in women, and on bone mineral density (BMD) in men and women is not known. The objective of this cross-sectional study was to determine the effect of long-term oral opioids on gonadal status and BMD in male and female patients with chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP). We included 26 community-dwelling CNCP patients, 12 men and 14 premenopausal women, treated with oral opioids for at least one year. We obtained Visual Analogue Scale for pain score, BMD and plasma LH and FSH in all patients; menstrual history and estradiol in women; free androgen index and total and free testosterone in men. Men were older then women (p<0.05) and had used opioids for a longer period (7.2+/-3.8 and 4.1+/-1.8 years, respectively; p<0.05), but there was no difference in opioid dose or pain score between sexes. The prevalence of hypogonadism was high in men (75%), while only 21% of the women reported oligo- or amenorrhea indicating hypogonadism (P<0.01, between sexes). Osteopenia was found in 50% of men and 21% of women (p=NS). We conclude that in CNCP patients receiving chronic opioid therapy there is a much higher prevalence of hypogonadism in men then in women. This needs to be considered clinical practice.

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