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Buprenorphine for treating cancer pain

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, March 2015
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (98th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (95th percentile)

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8 news outlets
1 blog
40 tweeters


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Buprenorphine for treating cancer pain
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, March 2015
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd009596.pub4
Pubmed ID

Mia Schmidt-Hansen, Nathan Bromham, Mark Taubert, Stephanie Arnold, Jennifer S Hilgart


Many patients with cancer experience moderate to severe pain that requires treatment with strong analgesics. Buprenorphine, fentanyl and morphine are examples of strong opioids used for cancer pain relief. However, strong opioids are ineffective as pain treatment in all patients and are not well-tolerated by all patients. The aim of this Cochrane review is to assess whether buprenorphine is associated with superior, inferior or equal pain relief and tolerability compared to other analgesic options for patients with cancer pain. To assess the effectiveness and tolerability of buprenorphine for pain in adults and children with cancer. We searched CENTRAL (the Cochrane Library) issue 12 or 12 2014, MEDLINE (via OVID) 1948 to 20 January 2015, EMBASE (via OVID) 1980 to 20 January 2015, ISI Web of Science (SCI-EXPANDED & CPCI-S) to 20 January 2015, ISI BIOSIS 1969 to 20 January 2015. We also searched ClinicalTrials.gov (http://clinicaltrials.gov/; metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (http://www.controlled-trials.com/mrct/), the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) search portal (http://apps.who.int/trialsearch/) and the Proceedings of the Congress of the European Federation of International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP; via European Journal of Pain Supplements) on 16 February 2015. We checked the bibliographic references of identified studies as well as relevant studies and systematic reviews to find additional trials not identified by the electronic searches. We contacted authors of included studies for other relevant studies. We included randomised controlled trials, with parallel-group or crossover design, comparing buprenorphine (any formulation and any route of administration) with placebo or an active drug (including buprenorphine) for cancer background pain in adults and children. Two review authors independently extracted data pertaining to study design, participant details (including age, cancer characteristics, previous analgesic medication and setting), interventions (including details about titration) and outcomes, and independently assessed the quality of the included studies according to standard Cochrane methodology. As it was not feasible to meta-analyse the data, we summarised the results narratively. We assessed the overall quality of the evidence for each outcome using the GRADE approach. In this Cochrane review we identified 19 relevant studies including a total of 1421 patients that examined 16 different intervention comparisons.Of the studies that compared buprenorphine to another drug, 11 studies performed comparative analyses between the randomised groups, and five studies found that buprenorphine was superior to the comparison treatment. Three studies found no differences between buprenorphine and the comparison drug, while another three studies found treatment with buprenorphine to be inferior to the alternative treatment in terms of the side effects profile or patients preference/acceptability.Of the studies that compared different doses or formulations/routes of administration of buprenorphine, pain intensity ratings did not differ significantly between intramuscular buprenorphine and buprenorphine suppository. However, the average severity of dizziness, nausea, vomiting and adverse events as a total were all significantly higher in the intramuscular group relatively to the suppository group (one study).Sublingual buprenorphine was associated with faster onset of pain relief compared to subdermal buprenorphine, with similar duration analgesia and no significant differences in adverse event rates reported between the treatments (one study).In terms of transdermal buprenorphine, two studies found it superior to placebo, whereas a third study found no difference between placebo and different doses of transdermal buprenorphine.The studies that examined different doses of transdermal buprenorphine did not report a clear dose-response relationship.The quality of this evidence base was limited by under-reporting of most bias assessment items (e.g., the patient selection items), by small sample sizes in several included studies, by attrition (with data missing from 8.2% of the enrolled/randomised patients for efficacy and from 14.6% for safety) and by limited or no reporting of the expected outcomes in a number of cases. The evidence for all the outcomes was very low quality. Based on the available evidence, it is difficult to say where buprenorphine fits in the treatment of cancer pain with strong opioids. However, it might be considered to rank as a fourth-line option compared to the more standard therapies of morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl, and even there it would only be suitable for some patients. However, palliative care patients are often heterogeneous and complex, so having a number of analgesics available that can be given differently increases patient and prescriber choice. In particular, the sublingual and injectable routes seemed to have a more definable analgesic effect, whereas the transdermal route studies left more questions.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 40 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 1 Mendeley reader of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 1 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Postgraduate 1 100%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Nursing and Health Professions 1 100%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 91. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 19 September 2017.
All research outputs
of 12,359,861 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 8,457 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 223,719 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 214 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 12,359,861 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 98th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 8,457 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 19.9. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 96% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 223,719 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 214 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 95% of its contemporaries.