The role of hydromorphone in cancer pain treatment: A systematic review

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The aim of this systematic review is to evaluate the scientific evidence for the efficacy and side effects of hydromorphone in the management of moderate to severe cancer pain.Randomized and non-randomized clinical trials, reporting data on efficacy and/or side effects of hydromorphone, were identified. Thirteen eligible studies, involving 1208 patients, were selected. Seven studies compared hydromorphone with other opioids (five with morphine, one with oxycodone and one with fentanyl and buprenorphine) and five of them were randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Most of the studies were conducted on patients already receiving opioid treatment, often at stabilized doses, and most had methodological limitations. The RCTs comparing hydromorphone with morphine and oxycodone showed similar analgesic results, while the comparison of side effects showed minor differences, not consistent across studies. Due to clinical and methodological heterogeneity of the studies, a meta-analysis was not performed. In conclusion there is evidence to support the efficacy and tolerability of hydromorphone for moderate to severe cancer pain as an alternative to morphine and oxycodone, while there is no evidence to demonstrate its superiority or inferiority in comparison with morphine as the first choice opioid for the same indication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-477
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • hydromorphone
  • Neoplasm
  • opioids
  • pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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