Utilisation of transdermal fentanyl in Germany from 2004 to 2006

Edeltraut Garbe, Kathrin Jobski, Ulrike Schmid
Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety 2012, 21 (2): 191-8

PURPOSE: Oral morphine is the first-choice opioid for moderate to severe cancer pain. Transdermal fentanyl is an alternative in patients with stable requirements of high-potency opioids (HPO) or if drugs cannot be taken orally. Drug regulatory authorities have issued several alerts to use transdermal fentanyl only for chronic pain and in HPO-tolerant patients to minimise the risk of severe opioid side effects. The aim of this study was to characterise utilisation of transdermal fentanyl in Germany.

METHODS: The analysis was based on data from four German statutory health insurances from the years 2004-2006. Descriptive analyses were performed in new users of transdermal fentanyl to assess HPO-naïvety, potential difficulties with the oral route in HPO-naïve patients and the number of transdermal fentanyl dispensations. The initial dose in new users was assessed in 2005-2006 after marketing of transdermal fentanyl 12.5 µg/hour.

RESULTS: Of 35 262 patients with new use of transdermal fentanyl, 29 793 (84.5%) were assessed as HPO-naïve. Of those, 21 596 (72.5%) did not have diagnoses indicating difficulties with the oral route. For 71.2% of the HPO-naïve new users of transdermal fentanyl, the first dose exceeded the recommended dose of 12.5 µg/hour, and 49.3% of them received only one prescription of the drug.

CONCLUSIONS: Transdermal fentanyl was used as a first-choice opioid, which may increase the risk of serious opioid side effects, in a substantial number of HPO-naïve patients. Inappropriate prescribing included also high initial doses in HPO-naïve patients and possible prescription for acute pain in a considerable proportion of patients.

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