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Lack of Efficacy: When Opioids Do Not Achieve Analgesia from the Beginning of Treatment in Cancer Patients

Authors Corli O, Damia G, Galli F, Verrastro C, Broggini M

Received 10 April 2019

Accepted for publication 22 October 2019

Published 10 December 2019 Volume 2019:11 Pages 10337—10344

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/CMAR.S211818

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Alexandra R. Fernandes


Oscar Corli,1 Giovanna Damia,2 Francesca Galli,3 Carmen Verrastro,4 Massimo Broggini2

1Unit of Pain and Palliative Care Research, Laboratory of Methodology for Clinical Research, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, Milan, Italy; 2Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology, Department of Oncology, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, Milan, Italy; 3Laboratory of Methodology for Clinical Research, Department of Oncology, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, Milan, Italy; 4Day Hospital of Rheumatology, ASST Gaetano Pini CTO, Milan, Italy

Correspondence: Oscar Corli
Unit of Pain and Palliative Care Research, Laboratory of Methodology for Clinical Research, Department of Oncology, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, Via G. La Masa 19, Milan 20156, Italy
Tel +39 02390141
Fax +39 023546277
Email oscar.corli@marionegri.it

Introduction: Opioids are often used to relieve moderate to severe pain, but their analgesic response may vary. We focused on the absolute lack of analgesic response immediately after beginning opioid treatment, quantifying the proportion of patients with unchanged or worse pain on day 3 (defined as early non-responders (ENRs)) and day 7.
Methods: This is a post-hoc analysis from a randomized controlled trial involving 498 cancer patients with pain, starting to receive WHO step III opioids. On days 1, 3 and 7 pain intensity (PI) was measured.
Results: On day 3, 68 (13.7%) patients were ENRs, 53 no change and 15 greater PI compared to baseline. The relationships between pain and clinical characteristics showed no significant differences between ENRs and Early responders (ERs), except for PI at baseline, which was significantly lower in ENRs. ENRs on day 3 were re-assessed on day 7 to explore the patterns of analgesic response: 31.7% of patients remained NRs, 48.3% had become responders, and 20.0% were poor responders. Adverse drug reactions were similar in ERs and ENRs at each visit.
Discussion: The complete lack of early response to opioids in cancer patients is clinically important and more frequent than expected. Better definition of the mechanism will allow better pain management in cancer and non-cancer patients.

Keywords: opioids, lack of analgesia, cancer pain, non-responders

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