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Non-opioid medications for the relief of chronic breathlessness: current evidence

Barbetta, Carlo; Currow, David C.; Johnson, Miriam J.


Carlo Barbetta

David C. Currow


Introduction: To evaluate systematically randomised clinical trials investigating non-opioid medications for the management and treatment of chronic breathlessness. Areas covered: The evidence for the role of benzodiazepines, anxiolytics, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), tricyclic antidepressants, antihistamines, cannabinoids, nebulized furosemide and herbal-based treatments were critically reviewed. Search of the Clinical Trials Registry ( identified ongoing studies expected to generate new data in the near future in several classes of non-opioid medications for their net effect on chronic breathlessness. Expert commentary: Morphine still has the best level of evidence for the symptomatic treatment of chronic breathlessness. Non-opioid treatments for chronic breathlessness are less studied than morphine and morphine-related medications although evidence is emerging in relation to some options. Currently, there is insufficient evidence to recommend non-opioids in the routine treatment of chronic breathlessness. There is a need to find agents, new as well as re-purposed, that can be used as alternative therapies to opioids for chronic breathlessness for people who are unable to tolerate morphine.

Journal Article Type Review
Publication Date Apr 3, 2017
Journal Expert review of respiratory medicine
Print ISSN 1747-6348
Electronic ISSN 1747-6356
Publisher Taylor & Francis
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 4
Pages 333-341
Institution Citation Barbetta, C., Currow, D. C., & Johnson, M. J. (2017). Non-opioid medications for the relief of chronic breathlessness: current evidence. Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine, 11(4), 333-341. doi:10.1080/17476348.2017.1305896
Keywords Breathlessness, Dyspnoea, Anxiolytic, Anti-depressant, Nebulized furosemide
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope: http://www.tandfonline....cope&journalCode=ierx20


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