Efficacy of pharmacological therapies for the treatment of opioid-induced constipation: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Alexander C. Ford*, Darren M. Brenner, Philip S. Schoenfeld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: There has been no definitive synthesis of the evidence for any benefit of available pharmacological therapies in opioid-induced constipation (OIC). We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to address this deficit. METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, EMBASE Classic, and the Cochrane central register of controlled trials through to December 2012 to identify placebo-controlled trials of μ-opioid receptor antagonists, prucalopride, lubiprostone, and linaclotide in the treatment of adults with OIC. No minimum duration of therapy was required. Trials had to report a dichotomous assessment of overall response to therapy, and data were pooled using a random effects model. Effect of pharmacological therapies was reported as relative risk (RR) of failure to respond to therapy, with 95% confidence intervals (CIs).RESULTS:Fourteen eligible randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of μ-opioid receptor antagonists, containing 4,101 patients, were identified. These were superior to placebo for the treatment of OIC (RR of failure to respond to therapy=0.69; 95% CI 0.63-0.75). Methylnaltrexone (six RCTs, 1,610 patients, RR=0.66; 95% CI 0.54-0.84), naloxone (four trials, 798 patients, RR=0.64; 95% CI 0.56-0.72), and alvimopan (four RCTs, 1,693 patients, RR=0.71; 95% CI 0.65-0.78) were all superior to placebo. Total numbers of adverse events, diarrhea, and abdominal pain were significantly commoner when data from all RCTs were pooled. Reversal of analgesia did not occur more frequently with active therapy. Only one trial of prucalopride was identified, with a nonsignificant trend toward higher responder rates with active therapy. Two RCTs of lubiprostone were found, with significantly higher responder rates with lubiprostone in both, but reporting of data precluded meta-analysis.CONCLUSIONS: μ-Opioid receptor antagonists are safe and effective for the treatment of OIC. More data are required before the role of prucalopride or lubiprostone in the treatment of OIC are clear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1566-1574
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology

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