One evidence base; three stories: do opioids relieve chronic breathlessness?

Magnus Ekstrom, Sabrina Bajwah, J Martin Bland, David C Currow, Jamilla Hussain, Miriam Johnson

    Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

    71 Citations (Scopus)


    The efficacy of low-dose systemic opioids for chronic breathlessness was questioned by the recent Cochrane review by Barnes et al. We examined the reasons for this conflicting finding and re-evaluated the efficacy of systemic opioids. Compared with previous meta-analyses, Barnes et al reported a smaller effect and lower precision, but did not account for matched data of crossover trials (11/12 included trials) and added a risk-of-bias criterion (sample size). When re-analysed to account for crossover data, opioids decreased breathlessness (standardised mean differences −0.32; −0.18 to −0.47; I2=44.8%) representing a clinically meaningful reduction of 0.8 points (0–10 numerical rating scale), consistent across meta-analyses.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)88-90
    Number of pages3
    Issue number1
    Early online date2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


    • Chronic breathlessness
    • Opioids
    • Meta-analyses
    • Morphine
    • COPD Pharmacology
    • Perception of Asthma/Breathlessness
    • Palliative Care


    Dive into the research topics of 'One evidence base; three stories: do opioids relieve chronic breathlessness?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this