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J Pain Symptom Manage. 1997 May;13(5):254-61.

Transdermal fentanyl versus sustained-release oral morphine in cancer pain: preference, efficacy, and quality of life. The TTS-Fentanyl Comparative Trial Group.

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  • 1Department of Palliative Medicine, University of Sheffield, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, United Kingdom.


Cancer patients requiring strong opioid analgesia (n = 202; mean age, 61.5 years; range, 18-89 years; 55% men) were recruited from 38 United Kingdom palliative care centers into a randomized, open, two-period, crossover study comparing transdermal fentanyl with sustained-release oral morphine. Patients received one treatment for 15 days followed immediately by the other for 15 days. Daily diaries were completed. Both treatments appeared equally effective in terms of pain control, as assessed by the Memorial Pain Assessment Card and European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) pain scores. Fentanyl was associated with significantly less constipation (p < 0.001) and less daytime drowsiness (p = 0.015) but greater sleep disturbance (p = 0.004) and shorter sleep duration (p = 0.008) than morphine. The World Health Organization (WHO) performance status and EORTC global quality of life scores showed no significant difference between treatment groups. Of those patients who were able to express a preference (n = 136), significantly more preferred the fentanyl patches (p = 0.037). We conclude that, in this study, transdermal fentanyl provided pain relief that was acceptable to cancer patients and was associated with less constipation and sedation than morphine. These reduced side effects may contribute to patients preference for the patches.

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