Patients with severe COPD benefit from a daily dose of morphine

The daily use of low-dose morphine tablets by patients with a severe form of the lung disease COPD has a positive effect on quality of life, and has no negative side effects. These are the findings of a recent study by Cindy van den Berg-Verberkt and Dr Daisy Janssen of the Ciro knowledge centre and Maastricht University (UM). The results were published yesterday in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Positive effect

People with COPD suffer chronic inflammation of the lungs. In the Netherlands, the condition affects almost 600,000 people. Patients find it harder to breathe and therefore have less energy for everyday activities such as getting dressed, climbing stairs or shopping. The study by Ciro and UM now shows that a daily dose of morphine relieves the complaints to the extent that COPD patients experience a clear positive effect on their quality of life. Via the Ciro treatment centre and two hospitals, 124 COPD patients participated in the Maastricht study. Half were prescribed a daily low-dose morphine tablet for four weeks, while the other half received a placebo. ‘Morphine reduces the sensation of being short of breath,’ says researcher Cindy van den Berg-Verberkt. ‘It this shortness of breath that gives people with severe COPD trouble with doing everyday activities. We have seen that if you treat the shortness of breath with morphine, quality of life improves.’

Low dose

Until now, practitioners have generally been reluctant to prescribe morphine due to concerns the drug might have negative side effects. These fears are unfounded, according to the Maastricht researchers. ‘Especially with people suffering from chronic lung diseases, doctors are often afraid that morphine will have a negative effect on breathing,’ said Dr Daisy Janssen. ‘We looked at this very carefully in our research. We have seen that a low dose of morphine, even in people with severe COPD, has no adverse effect on breathing. Morphine is therefore an additional treatment option for people with severe COPD who still suffer from severe shortness of breath despite receiving the usual treatment for the disease.’

This project (836031012) has been funded by ZonMw.

Also read

  • Patients admitted to hospital due to a severe COVID-19 infection exhibit no evidence of brain damage caused by the disease. This is the conclusion of an extensive study led by Maastricht University.

  • Sten van Beek

    Cold shivers?

    Due to the Western lifestyle with a high fat diet combined with little exercise, more and more people in the Netherlands are overweight or even obese. This causes an increased risk of type II diabetes. What can be done about this besides a healthier lifestyle? The answer comes from an unexpected...

  • Marlou-Floor Kenkhuis

    Quantity and Quality

    Survivors of colon cancer often have symptoms associated with the cancer or treatment for years after treatment, such as fatigue and tingling in fingers and feet. This has a great impact on the perceived quality of life. Whereas current lifestyle advice is mainly aimed at prevention of (colon)...