Drug utilization review of tramadol hydrochloride in a regional hospital in South Africa; findings and implications

Akhona Fynn, Elvera Helberg, Brian Godman*, Johanna C. Meyer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Drug utilization reviews (DURs) can be used to promote rational prescribing and ensure compliance with standard treatment guidelines. In recent years, the use of tramadol hydrochloride (HCl) for pain has increased significantly across countries. We sought to determine prescribing patterns and the use of tramadol in a regional hospital in South Africa to provide future guidance in view of increasing concerns with the prescribing of tramadol. Method: A prospective, quantitative and descriptive study was conducted over two months. Outpatient and inpatient prescriptions and ward requisitions where tramadol HCl was prescribed or ordered were identified, which included outpatients collecting antiretroviral treatment. Prescriptions were reviewed and evaluated to determine the level of compliance to the Standard Treatment Guidelines and Essential Medicines List (STGs/EML) for South Africa as a measure of rational prescribing. Quantities issued to the inpatient wards and expenditure incurred by the pharmacy departments were assessed to determine overall usage and total costs. Results: In total, 415 tramadol HCl prescriptions were collected over a 2-month period. Compliance was 70.1% to the STGs/EML. The outpatient pharmacy department had the highest compliance at 76.4% while the antiretroviral pharmacy compliance was 29.1%. Most prescriptions dispensed at the outpatient pharmacy were from the Surgical Outpatient Department (140; 33.7%) and the Orthopedic Outpatient Department (108; 26.0%). The outpatient pharmacy had the highest tramadol HCl consumption and expenditure at $4,874.13 (R72,054.28), while the inpatient pharmacy’s expenditure was $2,526.63 (R37,351.20), and the antiretroviral pharmacy $590.13 (R8,722.75). The hospital’s tramadol HCl expenditure increased when compared to previous financial years, from $10,576.04 (R156,326.00) in 2014–2015 to $39,584.00 (R585,088.80) in 2016–2017. Conclusion: This study highlights the need for the implementation of monitoring and evaluation tools to enhance rational prescribing and use of tramadol HCl. These are being implemented and will be evaluated in future projects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-99
Number of pages8
JournalHospital Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • EML
  • South Africa
  • Tramadol
  • drug utilization review
  • guidelines
  • hospital


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