Strategies to Manage the Adverse Effects of Oral Morphine: An Evidence-Based Report Academic Article uri icon

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  • ABSTRACT: Successful pain management with opioids requires that adequate analgesia be achieved without excessive adverse effects. By these criteria, a substantial minority of patients treated with oral morphine (10% to 30%) do not have a successful outcome because of (1) excessive adverse effects, (2) inadequate analgesia, or (3) a combination of both excessive adverse effects along with inadequate analgesia. The management of excessive adverse effects remains a major clinical challenge. Multiple approaches have been described to address this problem. The clinical challenge of selecting the best option is enhanced by the lack of definitive, evidence-based comparative data. Indeed, this aspect of opioid therapeutics has become a focus of substantial controversy. This study presents evidence-based recommendations for clinical-practice formulated by an Expert Working Group of the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC) Research Network. These recommendations highlight the need for careful evaluation to distinguish between morphine adverse effects from comorbidity, dehydration, or drug interactions, and initial consideration of dose reduction (possibly by the addition of a co analgesic). If side effects persist, the clinician should consider options of symptomatic management of the adverse effect, opioid rotation, or switching route of systemic administration. The approaches are described and guidelines are provided to aid in selecting between therapeutic options.


  • Cherny, Nathan
  • Ripamonti, Carla
  • Pereira, Jose
  • Davis, Carol
  • Fallon, Marie
  • McQuay, Henry
  • Mercadante, Sebastiano
  • Pasternak, Gavril
  • Ventafridda, Vittorio

publication date

  • May 1, 2001