Cost-effectiveness of sustained-release morphine for refractory breathlessness in COPD: A randomized clinical trial

Cornelia A. Verberkt, Marieke H. J. Van den Beuken-van Everdingen, Carmen D. Dirksen, Jos M. G. A. Schols, Emiel F. M. Wouters, Daisy J. A. Janssen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Chronic breathlessness is a frequent symptom in advanced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and has major impact on quality of life, daily activities and healthcare utilization. Morphine is used as palliative treatment of chronic breathlessness. The aim is to analyze cost-effectiveness of regular, low-dose morphine in patients with advanced COPD from a healthcare and societal perspective.

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, participants with advanced COPD were assigned to 10 mg regular, oral sustained-release morphine or placebo twice daily for four weeks. Quality of life (COPD Assessment Test; CAT), quality-adjusted life years (QALY's; EQ-5D-5L), healthcare costs, productivity, and patient and family costs were collected. Incremental cost-effectivity ratio's (ICERs) using healthcare costs and CAT scores, and incremental cost-utility ratio's (ICURs) using societal costs and QALY's were calculated.

Results: Data of 106 of 124 participants were analyzed, of which 50 were in the morphine group (mean [SD] age 65.4 [8.0] years; 58 [55%] male). Both ICER and ICUR indicated dominance for morphine treatment. Sensitivity analyses substantiated these results. From a healthcare perspective, the probability that morphine is cost-effective at a willingness to pay (sic) 8000 for an minimal clinically important difference of 2 points increase in CAT score is 63%. From a societal perspective, the probability that morphine is cost-effective at a willingness to pay (sic) 20,000 per QALY is 78%.

Conclusion: Morphine for four weeks is cost-effective regarding the healthcare and the societal perspective. To estimate the long-term costs and effects of morphine treatment, a study of longer follow-up should be performed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106330
Number of pages9
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • Breathlessness
  • CAT
  • COPD
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Morphine

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