Does Morphine Help Patients With Breathing Problems?

Long-term shortness of breath is a common cause of ongoing suffering that often occurs with advanced serious illness and at the end of life. COPD can cause breathlessness by damaging the lungs and airways and for seriously ill people with severe long-term breathlessness, physical activity is often a challenge.

To solve this challenge, researchers included 156 patients, each for three weeks, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who suffered from severe long-term breathlessness.


Is Morphine Good for COPD?

In the first week, the participants were randomized into three groups, two to regular low doses of once-daily morphine (8 milligrams daily or 16 milligrams daily), and a third control group that received a placebo.

During the subsequent two weeks, participants were randomized to receive either an additional 8 milligrams of morphine or a placebo, in addition to the previous treatment.

This was done to investigate the efficacy of the treatment and the risk of side effects resulting from an increased dose of morphine. The treatment was 鬴ouble-blind�, which means the participants and those who treated them didn㦙 know what treatment each group was receiving.

Given the prevalence of long-term breathlessness across the world, we must find ways that safely and predictably reduce the suffering that this causes people, often for years.

Later, they compared the groups to see how they rated their experience of shortness of breath. With the help of motion sensors, also measured the participants� physical activity during the study.

Some probably expected that the study would show that regular, low-dose morphine may allow people to be more physically active. Unfortunately, across all participants, we did not see this. We didn㦙 see any improvements in terms of the worst breathlessness that participants experienced.

The use of regular low-dose morphine for severe long-term breathlessness should not be widely used in healthcare as a treatment for groups that experience chronic, activity-limiting shortness of breath.

The next step will be to investigate in greater detail whether certain groups respond better to morphine, as well as which ones are at a higher risk of experiencing side effects.

Source: Eurekalert

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