Opioid use in rheumatoid arthritis: trends, efficacy, safety, and best practices

Academic Article


  • Copyright © 2019 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved. Purpose of reviewThe opioid epidemic remains prominent in both the medical literature and popular media. Rheumatologists are among the physicians at the forefront of the epidemic because of the prominent role of pain in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and the limited options for treatment of pain. The purpose of this review is to provide an update on the trends of opioid use among patients with RA, to discuss the various mechanisms of RA pain, review the available evidence for opioid efficacy in RA, and to promote a guideline for best practices in opioid prescribing.Recent findingsRecent cohort studies have estimated that up to 40% of patients with RA are regular users of opioids, and the effects of disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs are minimal in reducing opioid use. Although the literature supports the efficacy of short-term opioids for the improvement in pain, long-term use is associated with reduced efficacy and increased safety concerns.SummaryAlthough the data supporting the use of long-term opioid use in patients with RA is poor, rheumatologists can adhere to best practices for determining when and if initiation of opioids is appropriate. Identification of the nature of the pain can help determine the appropriate course of treatment.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Day AL; Curtis JR
  • Start Page

  • 264
  • End Page

  • 270
  • Volume

  • 31
  • Issue

  • 3