Update on oral morphine for cancer pain

Categories: Research.

The review set out to assess the efficacy of oral morphine in relieving cancer pain, as well as the incidence and severity of adverse effects.

The reviewers identified ten new studies (638 participants) for this update, bringing the total of included studies to 62, with 4,241 participants. 

Morphine taken by mouth has been used since the 1950s for controlling cancer pain, and the review authors conclude that the effectiveness of oral morphine has stood the test of time.

More than 9 in 10 participants had pain that went from moderate or severe before taking morphine to pain that was no worse than mild pain when taking morphine. More than 6 in 10 participants were very satisfied with the morphine treatment, or considered the result to be very good or excellent. Only about 1 person in 20 stopped taking morphine because of side effects.

The authors also commented on the limited number of randomised trials, and that the studies that have been carried out were often small, compared many different preparations, and used different study designs, making it difficult to work out whether any one tablet or preparation of oral morphine was better than any other.

The full review can be accessed through The Cochrane Library.

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