Extended-Release Morphine Does Not Reduce Breathlessness in COPD

The findings do not support the use of daily low-dose extended release morphine to relieve breathlessness in patients with COPD.

HealthDay News — Daily low-dose extended release morphine does not significantly reduce the intensity of worst breathlessness among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and severe chronic breathlessness, according to a study published in the Nov. 22/29 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Magnus Ekström, M.D., Ph.D., from Lund University in Sweden, and colleagues conducted a double-blind trial involving people with COPD and chronic breathlessness at 20 centers in Australia. A total of 160 participants were randomly assigned to 8 mg/day or 16 mg/day of oral extended-release morphine or placebo during week 1 in a 1:1:1 ratio. Participants were randomly assigned to 8 mg/day extended-release morphine, added to the previous dose, or placebo in a 1:1 ratio at the start of weeks 2 and 3. Overall, 138 participants completed treatment at week 1.

The researchers found that the change in the intensity of worst breathlessness at week 1 did not differ significantly between the 8-mg/day morphine and placebo groups or between the 16-mg/day morphine and placebo groups. The secondary outcome of change in mean daily step count was not significantly different between the 8-mg/day and placebo groups, the 16-mg/day and placebo groups, the 24-mg/day and placebo groups, or the 32-mg/day and placebo groups at week 3.

“These findings do not support the use of these doses of extended-release morphine to relieve breathlessness,” the authors write.

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