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Palliat Med. 2011 Jul;25(5):402-9. doi: 10.1177/0269216310392102.

Is oral morphine still the first choice opioid for moderate to severe cancer pain? A systematic review within the European Palliative Care Research Collaborative guidelines project.

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Palliative Care, Pain Therapy and Rehabilitation Unit, Fondazione IRCCS Istituto Nazionale Tumori, Italy.


The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate the evidence that oral morphine can be recommended as the first choice opioid in the treatment of moderate to severe cancer pain in updating the European Association for Palliative Care opioid recommendations. A systematic literature review was performed to update the 2007 Cochrane review 'Oral morphine for cancer pain'. The literature search was conducted on MedLine, EMBASE and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials databases. The search strategy, limited in time (from 1 July 2006 to 31 October 2009), was aimed to be as extensive as possible using both text words and MeSH/EMTREE terms; a hand search of the reference lists of identified papers was also performed. Randomized clinical trials, containing data on efficacy and/or side effects of morphine, were identified. Among the papers retrieved from the cited databases and the Cochrane review, 17 eligible studies, for a total of 2053 patients, and a meta-analysis were selected. These studies do not add significant information to the previous Cochrane review confirming the limitation of efficacy and tolerability data on opioid-naïve and non-selected populations of cancer patients treated with morphine and suggesting that oral morphine, oxycodone and hydromorphone have similar efficacy and toxicity in this patient population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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