Last updated on January 2020

Morphine or Fentanyl for Refractory Dyspnea in COPD


Brief description of study

Rationale: The most important complaint in severe COPD is dyspnea which is associated with a diminished exercise tolerance, reduced quality of life and can lead to anxiety and depression. If dyspnea continues to exist despite optimal therapy it is called refractory dyspnea. There is evidence that morphine is effective and can safely be prescribed for treating refractory dyspnea.

However, a Dutch study recently showed that few pulmonologists actually prescribe opioids for this indication. The main reasons for this are concerns about side effects and respiratory insufficiency as well as negative emotions for the patient and families at the thought of using morphine.

Most studies investigating opioids for treatment of dyspnea are conducted with morphine tablets, and only a part of these patients suffered from COPD. To our knowledge there has not been a randomized controlled trial investigating fentanyl patches for refractory dyspnea in COPD patients. However, studies comparing fentanyl and morphine in pain management show that patients may prefer fentanyl patches and have less problems with obstipation.

Objective: There are three main objectives for this study.

First, the investigators will investigate the following hypothesis: Both fentanyl and morphine provide a reduction of dyspnea which is better than placebo. Fentanyl has less side effects than morphine.

Secondly, with this Dutch multi-center study the investigators would like to enlarge the evidence base and contribute to the experience with opioids for refractory dyspnea in COPD thereby greatly facilitating its implementation in the Netherlands.

Finally, the investigators will develop and evaluate educational material about opioid use for dyspnea in COPD.

Study design: This is a multi-center double blind, double-dummy cross-over randomized placebo-controlled trial with three study arms. A total of 60 COPD patients will be included in this study.

Participants will be treated sequentially with three combinations of medication and/or placebo medication in a random order. They will receive either a Fentanyl patch in combination with placebo tablets, a placebo patch with Morphine Slow release tablets or a placebo patch with placebo tablets. Main study parameters/endpoints: The primary endpoint is change in dyspnea sensation Secondary endpoints are change in HR-QoL, anxiety, sleep quality, hypercapnia and the number and seriousness of side effect.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03834363

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