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Review of Dopamine Antagonists for Nausea and Vomiting in Palliative Care Patients

Symptoms of nausea and vomiting are common in palliative care and hospice patients. One of the many classes of medications used for the treatment of nausea and vomiting is dopamine receptor antagonists which are particularly helpful for treating nausea mediated by the chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ) and impaired gastrointestinal function. While dopamine antagonists can be very effective treatments for nausea they should be used with caution as they carry the risk of QTc prolongation, have a FDA black box warning for tardive dyskinesia (TD), and increased risk of precipitating psychosis and death in patients with dementia. This review will cover haloperidol, olanzapine, prochlorperazine, and metoclopramide for treatment of nausea and vomiting including evidence of efficacy, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics to improve safe and effective utilization in clinical practice. This includes medication receptor site affinities at histaminic, muscarinic, serotonergic, and alpha-adrenergic receptors which can help providers anticipate potential adverse effects and risk of extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS), TD, and QTc prolongation. This review also includes considerations for dose adjustments based on renal function, hepatic function, and age. Understanding the pharmacology of dopamine antagonists can help providers choose the best treatment for control of nausea and vomiting and subsequently improve patients’ quality of life.

Systematic Review on Barriers to Access Opioid Analgesics for Cancer Pain Management from the Health Worker Perspective

The increasing incidence of oncological diseases creates a corresponding need for effective cancer pain management (CPM). The lack of access to and availability of opioid analgesics in most countries leads to avoidable suffering. This systematic review aims to identify barriers to accessing opioids, as described in literature that reflects the perspective of health-care workers. A systematic literature search was performed in May 2018 and updated in December 2022, using search terms related to “cancer pain,” “opioid analgesics,” “access,” and “health-care personnel.” Medline, Embase, and PsycInfo were searched. Forty-two studies met the inclusion criteria. Principal barriers that have hindered licit access to medical opioids include regulatory, systemic, educational, patient-related, and societal. These barriers are rooted in a lack of adequate education about the importance and significance of appropriate CPM. Barriers were often mutually reinforcing. A interdisciplinary approach is required to overcome them. This research contributes to the important global health issue of unduly limited access to opioid analgesics. It provides interdisciplinary solutions in terms of guidelines to ensure that governments respect, protect, and fulfill the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the relief of severe pain.

Oxycodone Extended-Release Capsule Utilization for Pain Management in a Cancer Palliative Care Clinic: A Retrospective Review

ABSTRACT  Xtampza ER™, an oxycodone extended-release capsule (OERC), was the first long-acting opioid to feature abuse-deterrent properties and various routes of administration without pharmacokinetic alterations. The primary objective of this study was to evaluate changes in reported pain scores after initiation of or rotation to OERC from a previous opioid.  Baseline scores were from patients’ outpatient visits immediately before starting OERC and were compared to those at the next two follow-up visits. Secondary objectives identified variables that influenced pain scores. Methods included screening for cancer patients with outpatient OERC prescriptions seen in the palliative care clinic. Eighty-two charts were reviewed with 66 included. Overall mean pain scores at both follow-ups were lower than those at baseline (–0.7 ± 2.1; −1.1 ± 2.4). Results were statistically significant between first and second-reported pain scores versus baseline (p = 0.009; 0.012) but clinically insignificant, defined as a ≥ 2-point change in numeric pain scores. Most patients discontinued OERC at the first or second follow-up (35; 53%), and 12.1% of patients who started OERC were prescribed OERC at the end of the study. There were no significant variables identified to influence pain scores either statistically or clinically. Further studies are needed to determine the long-term efficacy and safety in cancer palliative-care patients.

Open Access
Potential Drug Interactions in Terminally-Ill Cancer Patients, a Report from the Middle East

This study aims to evaluate the epidemiology of potential drug interactions in terminally-ill cancer patients receiving exclusively supportive care. In this cross-sectional study, during a 6-month follow-up, we considered the medical record of terminally-ill cancer patients referred to palliative care at the cancer center in Isfahan, Iran. Potential drug–drug interactions (DDIs) were assessed by Lexi-Interact ver.1.1 online software. During the study period, 133 terminally-ill cancer patients were recruited. We detected 1678 DDIs with moderate or major severity levels. Among them, 330, 219, 32, 1075, and 51 interactions were categorized in B, C, D, and X drug interactions categories, respectively. One hundred and twenty-two patients (91.73%) encountered at least one potential drug–drug interaction during the end of life care. Mechanistically, most drug–drug interactions (64.5%) were pharmacodynamics. The most frequent pharmacological class of drugs responsible for DDIs were quetiapine (91 cases), oxycodone (87 cases), and sertraline (55 cases). Interaction between oxycodone and sertraline was found to be in the top 10 detected DDIs (13.7%). Our results showed that potentially moderate or major drug–drug interactions often occur among terminally-ill cancer patients and the clinical significance of DDIs should be considered meticulously in the palliative care cancer setting.

Effects of Opioids, Steroids, Benzodiazepines, Anticholinergics, and Antihistamines on the Efficacy of Antipsychotics for Treating Delirium in End-of-Life Adult Patients Undergoing Palliative Care

The purpose of the study was to determine the effect of combination therapy involving opioids, steroids, benzodiazepines, anticholinergics, and antihistamines on antipsychotics efficacy for delirium. The study included adult inpatients receiving end-of-life palliative care and diagnosed with hyperactive delirium. Changes in delirium symptoms were assessed using the Intensive Care Delirium Screening Checklist (ICDSC). A retrospective analysis was conducted on 97 patients with ICDSC scores of ≥4, comparing the scores before and after antipsychotic administration. A mean score <4 sustained for 3 days after antipsychotics administration was considered effective. The mean days with ICDSC <4 within a 3-day period were evaluated as well. The efficacy of antipsychotics was compared between cases with and without the use of opioids, steroids, benzodiazepines, anticholinergics, and antihistamines. The results revealed no significant differences in the efficacy of antipsychotics for delirium when used in conjunction with opioids (odds ratio 0.614, 95% CI [0.179-2.105]), benzodiazepines (0.387, [0.108-1.390]), steroids (1.258, [0.276-5.746]), or anticholinergics (2.085, [0. 148-29.458]). Additionally, no significant differences were observed in the mean days with ICDSC <4 within 3-day period. Although opioids, benzodiazepines, steroids, anticholinergics, and antihistamines are recognized as delirium risk factors, their use for symptom relief in patients with delirium may not affect antipsychotic efficacy.

Comparing Post-operative Opioid Consumption before and after a Patient-Controlled Analgesia Shortage: A Re-evaluation of Safety and Effectiveness

This retrospective cohort study aimed to compare post-surgical opioid consumption before and after a PCA (patient-controlled analgesia) shortage. The study evaluated patients who received PCA vs. nurse-administered opioid analgesia (non-PCA). Two hundred and twenty-four patients ≥18 years who were initiated on analgesia within 24 h of surgery were included. The primary outcome was opioid consumption in average daily oral morphine milliequivalents (MME). The results showed that patients in the PCA group had increased MME consumption (162 ± 100.4 vs. 70.7 ± 52.8, p < 0.01), increased length of hospital stay (4.2 vs. 3.2 days, p < 0.01), and increased frequency of nausea (33 vs. 17.9%, p < 0.01). After controlling for confounding factors, the PCA group utilized significantly more opioids (84.6 MME/day, p < 0.01) than the non-PCA group. There was no difference in pain AUC/T (0.19 ± 0.07 vs. 0.21 ± 0.08, p = 0.07) and average opioid prescribing upon discharge (150 [77.5–360] vs. 90 [77.5–400], p = 0.64) between the PCA group and non-PCA group, respectively. These results question the routine use of PCA in post-operative patients due to the increased risk of opioid consumption, longer length of hospital stay, and higher incidence of nausea.