Objective: Moderate to severe pain is commonly experienced by cancer and non-cancer patients. Although opioids are generally the most important drugs in chronic pain management, their use in Italy remains low. We designed a prospective open trial to assess the efficacy and safety of a standard therapy clinically available for a large range of patients.
Methods: A total of 172 consecutive patients (89 women and 83 men) with chronic pain (daily mean visual analogue scale (VAS) score > 4) that was not adequately managed by their existing pain regimen were enrolled to receive an immediate release (IR) dose of morphine: 30 mg/day (opioid-naive patients) or 60 mg/day (non-naive patients) for 5 days. After this period (start therapy), all patients were switched to slow release (SR) opioid therapy for 30 days (steady therapy). Each breakthrough pain (BTP) episode was treated with a single dose of IR morphine (20% of the daily dose) during all study periods.
Results: Daily VAS score was reduced from 7.4 ± 1.3 at baseline to 3.8 ± 1.5 (p < 0.0001) after 30 days of steady therapy in cancer and non-cancer patients. Fewer patients reported BTP events by study end (55% of patients with BTP at basal time had no BTP at last follow up), and the number of daily BTP events experienced by patients was reduced by therapy to 1–2 per day in 75% of patients reporting BTP. Further, the time delay to reach pain relief following administration of a rescue dose of IR morphine was 15 minutes or less in 52.1% of patients at study end. The standard therapy was well tolerated and fewer adverse effects were recorded at the end of the study period compared with baseline, with the exception of constipation, which showed a moderate increase (from 18.2% to 25.0%).
Conclusion: Start therapy with IR morphine followed by conversion to SR opioid therapy could be implemented as a standard therapy to manage moderate to severe chronic pain in patients with cancer or non-cancer pain. ORamorph® in TIBER study (ORTIBER).