Relief for chronic breathlessness, after years of research at Flinders

More than 70,000 Australians who suffer from chronic breathlessness will have access to medication to help manage this debilitating symptom.

In a world first, Mayne Pharma International Pty Ltd has announced the listing of a low-dose sustained-release morphine called Kapanol on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness.

Many of the people set to benefit have chronic lung disease are often housebound and limited in their day-to-day activities. Now, this once-a-day capsule offers a new way to reduce this symptom.

The Vice President for Scientific Affairs at Mayne Pharma, Dr Stuart Mudge, says: “Being able to respond to the needs of people with chronic breathlessness is an important step forward.

“As a world-first indication to treat this symptom, it presents an exciting opportunity for Mayne Pharma and for the clinical community,” says Dr Mudge.

“This is going to make a difference for many people.”

This world-first indication will stimulate future research into other medications that may also be able to help manage chronic breathlessness.

The listing will drive new areas of research in the laboratory and in the clinic directly with patients.

Much of the research underpinning this listing was conducted in Australia by researchers and clinicians across the country.

The Australian national Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative, formerly at Flinders University and now based at University of Technology Sydney, has built on work started more than 20 years ago to study the effectiveness and safety of regular, low dose extended-release morphine for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness.

The work, led by the principal investigator of the Collaborative, Professor David Currow, has engaged clinician-researchers in every mainland state.

“This is a national effort which has brought together patients with clinicians from respiratory medicine, clinical pharmacology and palliative care in order to improve the care that we offer,” Professor Currow said.

“Rigorous clinical studies that have tested the use of regular, low dose morphine for the symptomatic reduction of chronic breathlessness have shown that, in people with the most severe breathlessness, there is symptomatic benefit that patients can notice.”

Linda Brown, the national manager of the collaborative said, “Conducting clinical research that can be integrated into practice is exciting. This is a team effort involving patients, their families, clinicians and industry. Together, we are making a difference for people today.”

Shortness of breath (also known as dyspnea) is a common symptom in very advanced stages of many diseases and disorders when every effort has been made to reverse underlying causes. It is experienced by many among those nearing the end of life suffering from heart failure (60 per cent), lung cancer (70 per cent) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (90 per cent).

The Flinders Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative has led national trials supporting the release of the new treatment this year.


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College of Medicine and Public Health