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Background: Cancer pain is experienced by numerous patients; thus, the main pain-relieving opioid analgesics, fentanyl and morphine, are of great importance. However, their analgesic efficacy and safety are different among individuals and are still controversial. The aim of this study was to compare the safety and efficacy of fentanyl and morphine among patients with cancer.
Methods: We performed a meta-analysis by searching PubMed and the Cochrane Library up to 01 April 2019. The search terms were fentanyl, morphine, opioids and cancer pain. All randomised controlled trials comparing fentanyl and morphine were included in the analysis.
Results: Overall, the initial search identified 2970 published studies; among them, 9 studies were included in the efficacy analysis and 8 studies were included in the safety analysis. The oral morphine versus oral transmucosal fentanyl subgroup analysis showed a mean difference(MD)=0.47[Confidence interval(CI):0.35-0.58] with an overall effect, Z=8.10, P<.00001.
The outcome of the oral morphine versus nasal/transdermal fentanyl subgroup indicated a MD=0.20[CI:0.3-0.37] with an overall effect, Z=2.24 and P=.02.
For the oral morphine versus buccal/sublingual fentanyl subgroup, the analysis revealed a MD=1.80[CI:1.35-2.25] with an overall effect, Z=7.87 and P<.00001.
The oral morphine versus other forms of fentanyl subgroup showed a MD=0.70[95%-CI:0.34-1.06] with the test for the overall effect, Z=3.81 and P=.0001.
Constipation, drowsiness, confusion and dry mouth were more common in the morphine group than in the fentanyl group, with a risk ratio=0.60[CI:0.37-0.97]; 0.93[CI:0.69-1.25]; 0.85[CI:0.23-3.13] and 0.54[CI:0.05-6.43], respectively.
Conclusions: Compared with oral morphine, fentanyl is safer and more effective. Moreover, fentanyl presents fewer side effects than morphine, especially constipation, drowsiness, confusion and dry mouth.