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CMAJ. 1989 Mar 15;140(6):653-7, 661.

Control of severe pain with sustained-release morphine tablets v. oral morphine solution.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy, Kelowna General Hospital, BC.


Recently a sustained-release morphine sulfate tablet (MS Contin [MSC]) was introduced in Canada. In a randomized double-blind crossover trial we compared MSC given every 12 hours with a morphine sulfate solution (MSS) given every 4 hours to 17 patients suffering from chronic severe pain. After titration of the morphine dosage to optimize the analgesic effect, each patient received 10 days of therapy with either MSC or MSS, then 10 days of therapy with an equal daily dose of the other formulation. Both preparations provided effective pain control, with minimal side effects. There was no significant difference between MSC and MSS in pain scores on a visual analogue scale (VAS), severity scores for tiredness and nausea, amount of supplemental morphine needed for break-through pain or patient preference. The plasma morphine concentrations tended to be greater during treatment with MSC. The study had an 89% probability of detecting a clinically significant difference in VAS pain scores. We conclude that an individualized, twice-daily regimen of MSC is as effective as MSS given every 4 hours for control of severe pain. The twice-daily regimen has several advantages: it provides for an uninterrupted night's sleep, it is substantially more convenient than the six doses per day required with MSS, and it should help reduce both medication errors and noncompliance.

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