Tassinari, D., Sartori, S., Tamburini, E., Scarpi, E., Tombesi, P., Santelmo, C., & Maltoni, M. (2009). Transdermal fentanyl as a front-line approach to moderate-severe pain: A meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Palliative Care, 25, 172–180.
To compare transdermal fentanyl to slow-release oral morphine—in terms of safety, efficacy, and patient compliance—in patients who have stable opiate requirements for pain control
Of the 117 trials retrieved, 11 were considered potentially eligible. The analysis included five trials. Three trials included patients with cancer, and two included patients without cancer. The quality of the reports was evaluated using the Jadad scale.
Side-effect profiles of transdermal fentanyl and oral slow-release morphine differ, but in this analysis authors observed no significant differences in overall side effects and patient preference regarding the two approaches. Transdermal fentanyl appears to be a valid alternative to oral opiates.
Findings should be interpreted with caution, given the limitations of this meta-analysis. Additional research comparing transdermal and other medication delivery routes for pain control is warranted. Transdermal opiates may be particularly useful for patients using opiate switching. Addressing individual patients' needs and concerns may mean that side-effect profiles play an important role in the selection of a medication delivery route.