Association Between Commonly Prescribed Opioids and Androgen Deficiency in Men: A Retrospective Cohort Analysis

Androgen deficiency is common among men who use opioids daily for chronic pain. In previous studies, we found that long-acting opioids are associated with greater odds of androgen suppression than equipotent doses of short-acting opioids. Here we examined whether specific commonly prescribed opioids were associated with greater odds of androgen deficiency compared to hydrocodone.

Retrospective cohort study.

Within a large, integrated health care delivery system, this study was comprised of men ages 18-80 on a stable regimen of a single opioid for chronic non-cancer pain.

Morning serum total testosterone levels were measured in subjects prescribed one opioid for at least 90 days. The association between individual opioids and androgen deficiency was assessed with logistic regression, controlling for dose, obesity, age, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes, using hydrocodone as a referent.

This study included 1,159 men. Men on fentanyl (odds ratio [OR] 25.7, 95% CI 2.82-234.97), methadone (OR 7.33, 95% CI 3.29-16.33), or oxycodone (OR 3.15, 95% CI 1.87-5.33) were more likely to be androgen deficient than men on hydrocodone. Increases in dose affected the odds of androgen deficiency differently for different opioids. Increased doses of hydrocodone (OR 1.18 per 10-mg increase in drug, 95% CI 1.09-1.28) and oxycodone (OR 1.01, 95% CI 1.00-1.02) were associated with increased odds of androgen deficiency.

Our results suggest that certain opioids are associated with increased odds of androgen deficiency compared with hydrocodone. Transdermal fentanyl, methadone and oxycodone were associated with higher odds of androgen deficiency than hydrocodone.

Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.). 2016 Aug 11 [Epub ahead of print]

Andrea L Rubinstein, Diane M Carpenter

*The Permanente Medical Group, Santa Rosa, Calif ., Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, Oakland, Calif.