Residents who take a popular pain medication may be at high risk of hypoglycemia, an analysis has found. 

Tramadol is ranked among the top five most-prescribed opioids and is often used to treat moderate-to-severe arthritic pain. As its popularity has grown, so too have documented cases of adverse effects on users.

Scientists from the University of California – San Diego analyzed over 6,000 adverse events reported to the Federal Drug Administration in an effort to document side effects of the drug. They were surprised to find that among other common side effects of opioids, users of Tramadol are at risk of low blood sugar. The incidents occurred in patients with or without diabetes.

“We wanted to have an objective, data-driven look at [Tramadol]’s adverse effects and bumped into a dangerous, unlisted and unexpected hypoglycemia.” said Tigran Makunts, PharmD. Only one other opioid analyzed was found to have a similar side effect: methadone.

While the study does not prove causality, prescribers and patients should be aware of this potentially dangerous risk, particularly if the patient is predisposed to diabetes, wrote lead author Ruben Abagyan, Ph.D.

The study was published yesterday in Scientific Reports.