Rational use and effectiveness of morphine in the palliative care of cancer patients at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute in Dar es salaam, Tanzania
Morphine and other opioids is the mainstay of cancer pain management. However, considerable fears surrounding their use present barriers to pain control. The aim of this study was to assess the rational use and effectiveness of morphine for management of pain in the palliative care of cancer patients at Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) in Tanzania. A total of 100 cancer patients who were receiving morphine therapy at the ORCI were interviewed to get information on morphine use. In addition, information on the prescribed doses of morphine was obtained from medical records of 200 patients who have used morphine from September 2005 to April 2006. Both outpatients and inpatients with advanced cancer who were receiving morphine for palliative care were involved. Seven (7) palliative caregivers, including two doctors, two nurses, a pharmacist, a pharmaceutical technician and a social worker were also interviewed. Of the 100 interviewees, 37% were aware of morphine. The level of education and duration of therapy had an impact on the awareness. The results also showed that oral morphine solution was the most common route (96%) of administration. Fifty-seven percent of the patients described the doses of morphine given to be effective in relieving their pain. Although most patients (79%) experienced morphine-induced side effects, the majority (93%) were continuing with the therapy. There were no indication of irrational use of morphine and morphine-induced side effects were well managed. The majority of patients and caregivers had positive attitude towards the use of morphine. In conclusion, the study revealed that the use of morphine is acceptable among a large proportion of patients receiving palliative care and that the majority of them find the doses given effective to relieve their pain.
Key words: cancer, patient, pain control, morphine, palliative care, hospital, Tanzania