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Poorly controlled acute and chronic pain can increase morbidity, impair quality of life and prolong disability. Over 80 percent of post surgical patients report moderate to severe uncontrolled postoperative pain. Over-reliance on potent opioid agonists can lead to several opioid related side effects such as gastrointestinal intolerability, respiratory depression and cognitive impairment. A recently approved dual acting central analgesic tapentadol may offer improved tolerability over traditional opioid agonists while having multimodal opioid and nonopioid analgesic benefits. Tapentadol, classified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a class 2 opioid, is currently marketed in the United States as immediate release (IR) NUCYNTA® for moderate to severe acute pain in tablets of 50 mg, 75 mg, and 100 mg, and as extended release (ER) NUCYNTA ER® for the treatment of chronic moderate to severe pain in tablets of 50 mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, 200 mg, and 250 mg. Tapentadol is a low affinity mu opioid receptor agonist and a norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. Tapentadol has no active metabolites and this property makes it useful in patients with hepatic and renal failure. Clinical trials with tapentadol IR showed that there was improved gastrointestinal tolerability and similar pain relief as compared to oxycodone IR. Tapentadol ER allows for twice daily dosing. Clinical trials showed that tapentadol ER could effectively relieve moderate to severe chronic pain and was associated with significantly fewer gastrointestinal adverse effects as compared to oxycodone controlled release. Tapentadol ER is indicated and has Food and Drug Administration approval for the treatment of chronic painful diabetic neuropathy. The most common side effects of tapentadol are nausea (30%), vomiting (18%), dizziness (24%), and somnolence (15%). Tapentadol, due to its potential synergistic effects on norepinephrine levels, is contraindicated in patients who have taken monoamine oxidase inhibitors within the last 14 days. Caution has to be exercised with the use of tapentadol IR and tapentadol ER in the presence of other central nervous system depressants such as neuroleptics, opioids, illicit drugs, muscle relaxants, sedatives, and anxiolytics.


Nalini Vadivelu, Yili Huang, Brian Mirante, Michael Jacoby, Ferne R Braveman, Roberta L Hines, Raymond Sinatra. Patient considerations in the use of tapentadol for moderate to severe pain. Drug, healthcare and patient safety. 2013;5:151-9

PMID: 23861601

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