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Summary

Background:  Methadone is an opioid analgesic of step 3 of the World Health Organization (WHO) analgesic ladder.

Aim and Methods:  To outline pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, drug interactions, equianalgesic dose ratio with other opioids, dosing rules, adverse effects and methadone clinical studies in patients with cancer pain. A review of relevant literature on methadone use in cancer pain was conducted.

Results:  Methadone is used in opioid rotation and administered to patients with cancer pain not responsive to morphine or other strong opioids when intractable opioid adverse effects appear. Methadone is considered as the first strong opioid analgesic and in patients with renal impairment. Methadone possesses different pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics in comparison to other opioids. The advantages of methadone include multimode analgesic activity, high oral and rectal bioavailability, long lasting analgesia, lack of active metabolites, excretion mainly with faeces, low cost and a weak immunosuppressive effect. The disadvantages include long and changeable plasma half-life, high bound to serum proteins, metabolism through P450 system, numerous drug interactions, lack of clear equianalgesic dose ratio to other opioids, QT interval prolongation, local reactions when administered subcutaneously.

Conclusions:  Methadone is an important opioid analgesic at step 3 of the WHO analgesic ladder. Future controlled studies may focus on establishment of methadone equianalgesic dose ratio with other opioids and its role as the first strong opioid in comparative studies with analgesia, adverse effects and quality of life taken into consideration.