Common human painkiller may be effective for horses

March 7, 2007

A study is holding out hope that a common prescription painkiller may prove to be a very effective painkiller for horses.

The US-based Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has given Allison Stewart, of Auburn University, nearly $US30,000 to explore the use of Tramadol in the safe management of pain in adult horses.

Pain control in the adult horse has been managed to date with non-steroidal drugs such as Phenylbutazone or Flunixin, both of which have serious side effects in kidney and gastrointestinal damage. Morphine can also be used, but depresses the gut action, while opioid patches and continuous-rate administration of lidocaine or butorphanol are very expensive options.

Tramadol is a centrally acting analgesic that has been used clinically for pain control in humans and dogs for 20 years. It has no effect on the glycaemic index, cardiovascular or respiratory systems, and is not a controlled substance.

This study will evaluate oral Tramadol, from a pharmacological perspective, monitor serum levels, and define any side effects in its use in horses.

Internal medicine specialists are anxious to have a drug of such a calibre available for the horse.

Tramadol is an atypical opioid, used in people for treating moderate to severe pain. It is a prescription drug in most countries, and was developed by the German pharmaceutical company, Grnenthal GmbH, and marketed under the name Tramal.

Grnenthal cross licenses the drug to other pharmaceutical companies that market it under various names, including and Ultram. It is often available in combination with paracetamol.

In humans, it is generally consider to be about 10 per cent as potent as morphine.

Common side-effects include nausea, vomiting, sweating, and drowsiness.

Although an opioid, it is considered to have a low risk of dependence compared to other opioids.