Morphine for treatment of cough in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (PACIFY COUGH): a prospective, multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-way crossover trial

Zhe Wu, Lisa G Spencer, Winston Banya, John Westoby, Veronica A Tudor, Pilar Rivera-Ortega, Nazia Chaudhuri, Ira Jakupovic, Brijesh Patel, Muhunthan Thillai, Alex West, Marlies Wijsenbeek, Toby M Maher, Jacky A Smith, Philip L Molyneaux

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Abstract

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive fibrotic lung disease, with most patients reporting cough. Currently, there are no proven treatments. We examined the use of low dose controlled-release morphine compared with placebo as an antitussive therapy in individuals with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The PACIFY COUGH study is a phase 2, multicentre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, two-way crossover trial done in three specialist centres in the UK. Eligible patients aged 40-90 years had a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis within 5 years, self-reported cough (lasting >8 weeks), and a cough visual analogue scale (VAS) score of 30 mm or higher. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to placebo twice daily or controlled-release morphine 5 mg orally twice daily for 14 days followed by crossover after a 7-day washout period. Patients were randomised sequentially to a sequence group defining the order in which morphine and placebo were to be given, according to a computer-generated schedule. Patients, investigators, study nurses, and pharmacy personnel were masked to treatment allocation. The primary endpoint was percentage change in objective awake cough frequency (coughs per h) from baseline as assessed by objective digital cough monitoring at day 14 of treatment in the intention-to-treat population, which included all randomised participants. Safety data were summarised for all patients who took at least one study drug and did not withdraw consent. This study was registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT04429516, and has been completed. Between Dec 17, 2020, and March 21, 2023, 47 participants were assessed for eligibility and 44 were enrolled and randomly allocated to treatment. Mean age was 71 (SD 7·4) years, and 31 (70%) of 44 participants were male and 13 (30%) were female. Lung function was moderately impaired; mean forced vital capacity (FVC) was 2·7 L (SD 0·76), mean predicted FVC was 82% (17·3), and mean predicted diffusion capacity of carbon monoxide was 48% (10·9). Of the 44 patients who were randomised, 43 completed morphine treatment and 41 completed placebo treatment. In the intention-to-treat analysis, morphine reduced objective awake cough frequency by 39·4% (95% CI -54·4 to -19·4; p=0·0005) compared with placebo. Mean daytime cough frequency reduced from 21·6 (SE 1·2) coughs per h at baseline to 12·8 (1·2) coughs per h with morphine, whereas cough rates did not change with placebo (21·5 [SE 1·2] coughs per h to 20·6 [1·2] coughs per h). Overall treatment adherence was 98% in the morphine group and 98% in the placebo group. Adverse events were observed in 17 (40%) of 43 participants in the morphine group and six (14%) of 42 patients in the placebo group. The main side-effects of morphine were nausea (six [14%] of 43 participants) and constipation (nine [21%] of 43). One serious adverse event (death) occurred in the placebo group. In patients with cough related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, low dose controlled-release morphine significantly reduced objective cough counts over 14 days compared with placebo. Morphine shows promise as an effective treatment to palliate cough in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, and longer term studies should be the focus of future research. The Jon Moulton Charity Trust. [Abstract copyright: Copyright © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.]
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)273-280
Number of pages8
JournalThe Lancet. Respiratory medicine
Volume12
Issue number4
Early online date15 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 15 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.

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