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Morphine for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness: the case for controlled release

Currow, David C.; Kochovska, Slavica; Ferreira, Diana; Johnson, Miriam

Authors

David C. Currow

Slavica Kochovska

Diana Ferreira



Abstract

Purpose of Review:
Clinicians who seek to reduce the symptomatic burden of chronic breathlessness by initiating regular low dose morphine have the choice of immediate or sustained release formulations - which will be better for this often frail population, and which has the more robust evidence to inform its prescription? Both formulations can be used.
Recent findings:
For chronic breathlessness, three factors consistently favour the use of regular, low dose, sustained release morphine over immediate release formulations:
1. Pharmacokinetics in steady state demonstrate lower peak and higher trough concentrations than immediate release formulations. From first principles, this profile is more likely to minimise harms and maximise benefits.
2. Meta-analyses studying patients who were treated to steady state in randomised, placebo-controlled studies for the indication of chronic breathlessness are almost all done with sustained and not immediate release formulations.
3. Studies consistently show patients’ preferences for the least frequent dosing, with concomitant increases of up to 50% in otherwise poor medication compliance.
Summary:
As the evidence base expands for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness, pharmacological interventions will play a part. Using the best available evidence underpins patient-centred approaches that seek to predictably maximise the net effect.
As such, the weight of evidence in patient-centred clinical care favours the use of regular, low-dose sustained release morphine for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2020-09
Journal Current opinion in supportive and palliative care
Print ISSN 1751-4258
Electronic ISSN 1751-4266
Publisher Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 3
Pages 177-181
APA6 Citation Currow, D. C., Kochovska, S., Ferreira, D., & Johnson, M. (2020). Morphine for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness: the case for controlled release. Current opinion in supportive and palliative care, 14(3), 177-181. https://doi.org/10.1097/SPC.0000000000000520
DOI https://doi.org/10.1097/SPC.0000000000000520
Keywords Breathlessness; Morphine; Medication Compliance; Net clinical effect; Pharmacokinetics
Publisher URL https://journals.lww.com/co-supportiveandpalliativecare/Abstract/2020/09000/Morphine_for_the_symptomatic_reduction_of_chronic.5.aspx
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