Methadone response in advanced cancer patients with pain followed at home

Sebastiano Mercadante, Alessandra Casuccio, Antonio Agnello, Luca Barresi

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Concerns about the safety of therapy with methadone, which may arise because of its pharmacokinetic characteristics and inappropriate dosing, may deter clinicians from using this drug, especially in elderly patients. Experience is accumulating that the drug may be used safely and successfully if low doses are given initially and care is taken in the titration of the dose against the pain. A prospective study was carried out in a consecutive sample of 45 advanced cancer patients followed at home, who had never received other strong opioids for their pain. Patients were treated with an oral liquid preparation of methadone, which was administered 2-3 times daily, according to need. Doses were kept as low as possible and were titrated to achieve acceptable analgesia with minimal adverse effects. The methadone starting dose (MSD) at referral, the maximum dose of methadone (MMD), the days of methadone treatment, the use of other nonopioid analgesics, symptoms associated with methadone therapy, pain intensity, and pain mechanism were recorded. Methadone escalation index percentage (MEI%) and methadone escalation index in mg (MEI mg) were calculated from these parameters. No correlations between age and gender, and MSD, MMD, days on methadone, VAS and symptoms were found. No significant differences were found in pain mechanisms, age, and other parameters, including methadone-related symptoms. Treatment of pain with methadone provides important support to patients with cancer followed at home and the risks are low with individually titrated doses, even in older patients or in the presence of a neuropathic pain mechanism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)188-192
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1999


  • Adverse effects
  • Cancer pain
  • Methadone
  • Opioids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Nursing(all)


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