Methadone-induced mortality in the treatment of chronic pain: role of QT prolongation

Christopher M Andrews, Mori J Krantz, Erich F Wedam, Matthew J Marcuson, John F Capacchione, Mark C Haigney
Cardiology Journal 2009, 16 (3): 210-7
Methadone is increasingly prescribed for chronic pain, yet the associated mortality appears to be rising disproportionately relative to other opioid analgesics. We review the available evidence on methadone-associated mortality, and explore potential pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic explanations for its greater apparent lethality. While methadone shares properties of central nervous system and respiratory depression with other opioids, methadone is unique as a potent blocker of the delayed rectifier potassium ion channel (IKr). This results in QT-prolongation and torsade de pointes (TdP) in susceptible individuals. In some individuals with low serum protein binding of methadone, the extent of blockade is roughly comparable to that of sotalol, a potent QT-prolonging drug. Predicting an individual's propensity for methadone-induced TdP is difficult at present given the inherent limitations of the QT interval as a risk-stratifier combined with the multifactorial nature of the arrhythmia. Consensus recommendations have recently been published to mitigate the risk of TdP until further studies better define the arrhythmia risk factors for methadone. Studies are needed to provide insights into the clinical covariates most likely to result in methadone-associated arrhythmia and to assess the feasibility of current risk mitigation strategies.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Related Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"

We want to hear from doctors like you!

Take a second to answer a survey question.