Treatment with opioids is not cost effective in osteoarthritis patients without comorbidities, according to Savannah R. Smith and her associates.

When a 10% reduction in total knee arthroplasty (TKA) effectiveness from opioid-based therapies was assumed, tramadol therapy delayed TKA by 7 years and tramadol plus oxycodone therapy delayed TKA by 9 years. Opioid-based therapy reduced primary TKA utilization by 4% for tramadol and by 10% for tramadol plus oxycodone, and reduced revision TKA use by 23% and 39%, respectively.

While both opioid-based therapies reduced dependence on TKA, treatment was more expensive and it reduced quality of life, compared with an opioid-sparing therapy. For a 60-year-old OA patient for whom TKA was not an option, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for tramadol was $39,600 per quality-adjusted life-year, compared with a therapy without opioids, and the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for tramadol plus oxycodone was $116,800 per quality-adjusted life-year.

“Given the risk of diversion and its associated cost for potent opioids, policy makers may consider limiting the use of potent opioids in knee OA patients. From a cost-effectiveness standpoint, both opioid-based strategies led to higher costs without providing additional benefits, unless patients were unwilling or unable to undergo TKA later,” the investigators noted.

Find the full study in Arthritis Care and Research ( doi: 10.1002/acr.22916 ).


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