A systematic review of oxycodone in the management of cancer pain

Samuel James King, Colette Reid, Karen Forbes, Geoffrey Hanks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Oxycodone is often used as an opioid analgesic for moderate to severe cancer-related pain, but its use varies across Europe. This systematic literature review forms the basis of guidelines for oxycodone use within the European Palliative Care Research Collaborative opioid guidelines project conducted on behalf of the European Association for Palliative Care.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to identify and assess the quality of evidence for the use of oxycodone for cancer pain in adults.

METHODS: The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MedLine, EMBASE and CINAHL were systematically searched in addition to hand searching of relevant journals. Studies were included if they reported a clinical outcome relevant to the use of oxycodone in adult patients with moderate to severe cancer pain. Any form and route of oxycodone was included except intrathecal. No direct comparator was required for inclusion and studies were excluded if patients had previously switched from another strong opioid because of intolerable adverse effects or poor efficacy. This is a narrative systematic review, using the GRADE approach to assess the quality of studies and to formulate guidelines.

RESULTS: Twenty-nine original studies were identified including a meta-analysis and 14 randomized controlled trials. The identified meta-analysis included three trials comparing oxycodone to morphine and one comparing oxycodone to hydromorphone. Four other randomized trials compared oxycodone with other opioids. The remaining randomized controlled trials compared different routes of administration or formulations of oxycodone. No additional studies that would have been suitable for addition to the meta-analysis were identified.

CONCLUSIONS: There is no evidence from the included trials of a significant difference in analgesia or adverse effects between oxycodone and morphine or hydromorphone. The evidence was graded as high quality on the basis of a well-conducted meta-analysis, with no limitations likely to affect the outcome, in addition to consistency in the results of the other studies. The research was conducted using participants relevant to cancer and palliative care populations. Oxycodone can be recommended as an alternative to morphine or hydromorphone for cancer-related pain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-70
Number of pages17
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms
  • Oxycodone
  • Pain
  • Pain Measurement
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Severity of Illness Index


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