Scientific article
Open access

When the Safe Alternative Is Not That Safe: Tramadol Prescribing in Children

Published inFrontiers in Pharmacology, vol. 9, 148
Publication date2018

Children represent a vulnerable population in which management of nociceptive pain is complex. Drug responses in children differ from adults due to age-related differences. Moreover, therapeutic choices are limited by the lack of indication for a number of analgesic drugs due to the challenge of conducting clinical trials in children. Furthermore the assessment of efficacy as well as tolerance may be complicated by children's inability to communicate properly. According to the World Health Organization, weak opioids such as tramadol and codeine, may be used in addition to paracetamol and ibuprofen for moderate nociceptive pain in both children and adults. However, codeine prescription has been restricted for the last 5 years in children because of the risk of fatal overdoses linked to the variable activity of cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2D6 which bioactivates codeine. Even though tramadol has been considered a safe alternative to codeine, it is well established that tramadol pharmacodynamic opioid effects, efficacy and safety, are also largely influenced by CYP2D6 activity. For this reason, the US Food and Drug Administration recently released a boxed warning regarding the use of tramadol in children. To provide safe and effective tramadol prescription in children, a personalized approach, with dose adaptation according to CYP2D6 activity, would certainly be the safest method. We therefore recommend this approach in children requiring chronic or recurrent nociceptive pain treatment with tramadol. In case of acute inpatients nociceptive pain management, prescribing tramadol at the minimal effective dose, in a child appropriate dosage form and after clear instructions are given to the parents, remains reasonable based on current data. In all other situations, morphine should be preferred for moderate to severe nociceptive pain conditions.

Citation (ISO format)
RODIEUX, Frédérique et al. When the Safe Alternative Is Not That Safe: Tramadol Prescribing in Children. In: Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2018, vol. 9, p. 148. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2018.00148
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1663-9812

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