Low-dose morphine may effectively reduce pain intensity compared with weak opioids in patients with cancer who have moderate pain, according to an Italian study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.1

Elena Bandieri, MD, Unità Sanitaria Locale, Modena conducted a multicenter, 28-day, open-label randomized controlled trial of 240 patients with moderate cancer pain who were assigned to either weak opioid or low-dose morphine.

Primary outcome was the number of patients who had a 20% reduction in pain intensity on the numerical rating scale.

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The researchers found that primary outcome occurred in 88.2% of patients who were given low-dose morphine, and 57.7% of those who were given weak opioids.

RELATED: Treating Pain in Patients with Cancer: Considerations When Prescribing Opioids

Clinically meaningful and highly meaningful reduction in pain intensity was more pronounced in those given low-dose morphine, and as early as within one week. Change in assigned treatment occurred more frequently in patients given weak opioids due to inadequate analgesia.


  1. Bandieri E, Romero M, Ripamondi CI, et al. Randomized trial of low-dose morphine versus weak opioids in moderate cancer pain [published online ahead of print December 7, 2015]. J Clin Oncol. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.61.0733.