Older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder who recently started using opioids have an increased risk of coronary artery disease-related death compared to non-opioid users, researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital have found.

Among these patients, new opioid use is associated with a 215 percent increase in coronary artery disease-related death for long-term care residents and an 83 percent increase in coronary artery disease-related death for those who lived at home compared to non-opioid users, according to the study.

The study, published today in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, raises concerns about new opioid use among older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, a progressive lung disease that causes breathing difficulty, said Dr. Nicholas Vozoris, a respirologist at St. Michael’s, and lead author of the study.


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Previous research by Dr. Vozoris found older adults with COPD who recently started using opioids are also at an increased risk of dying from respiratory reasons compared to non-opioid users.

COPD affects approximately four to 10 per cent of the Canadian population, with the five-year mortality rate from 40 to 70 per cent, depending on the severity. The two-year mortality rate for people with severe COPD is about 50 per cent.

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