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Hydromorphone (By mouth)

Treats moderate to severe pain. This medicine is a narcotic pain reliever.

What works?

Learn more about the effects of these drugs. The most reliable research is summed up for you in our featured article.

Hydromorphone oral liquid and tablets are used to relieve pain. The hydromorphone extended-release capsules and extended-release tablets are used to relieve moderate to severe pain in opioid-tolerant patients who require around-the-clock pain relief for a long period of time. Hydromorphone extended-release capsules and extended-release tablets should not be used if you need pain medicine for just… Read more
Brand names include
Dilaudid, Dilaudid-5, Exalgo, Palladone
Other forms
By injection
Drug classes About this
Analgesic, Central Nervous System Agent

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Hydromorphone for neuropathic pain in adults

There is no good evidence to support or refute the suggestion that hydromorphone works in any neuropathic pain condition.

Hydromorphone for the treatment of cancer pain

Over 75% of people with cancer experience pain. Around 30% to 50% of these people have moderate to severe pain, which can have a negative impact on daily life. Cancer pain is a distressing symptom that tends to worsen as the disease progresses. Hydromorphone may help relieve these symptoms.

The role of hydromorphone in cancer pain treatment: A systematic review.

The aim of this systematic review is to evaluate the scientific evidence for the efficacy and side effects of hydromorphone in the management of moderate to severe cancer pain. Randomized and non-randomized clinical trials, reporting data on efficacy and/or side effects of hydromorphone, were identified. Thirteen eligible studies, involving 1208 patients, were selected. Seven studies compared hydromorphone with other opioids (five with morphine, one with oxycodone and one with fentanyl and buprenorphine) and five of them were randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Most of the studies were conducted on patients already receiving opioid treatment, often at stabilized doses, and most had methodological limitations. The RCTs comparing hydromorphone with morphine and oxycodone showed similar analgesic results, while the comparison of side effects showed minor differences, not consistent across studies. Due to clinical and methodological heterogeneity of the studies, a meta-analysis was not performed. In conclusion there is evidence to support the efficacy and tolerability of hydromorphone for moderate to severe cancer pain as an alternative to morphine and oxycodone, while there is no evidence to demonstrate its superiority or inferiority in comparison with morphine as the first choice opioid for the same indication.

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Summaries for consumers

Hydromorphone for neuropathic pain in adults

There is no good evidence to support or refute the suggestion that hydromorphone works in any neuropathic pain condition.

Hydromorphone for the treatment of cancer pain

Over 75% of people with cancer experience pain. Around 30% to 50% of these people have moderate to severe pain, which can have a negative impact on daily life. Cancer pain is a distressing symptom that tends to worsen as the disease progresses. Hydromorphone may help relieve these symptoms.

Morphine‐like drugs for cancer pain

In about 19 of 20 people with moderate to severe pain from cancer, morphine‐like drugs (opioids) can probably reduce pain to mild or no pain within 14 days if they can tolerate the side effects. Most people will have side effects, and about 1 in 10 to 2 in 10 will need to change their treatment because of side effects.

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