The use of oral opioids to control children's pain in the post-codeine era
Paediatrics and Child Health (Canada)
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Pain is a common problem for children, and pain management comprises both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic measures. For moderate to severe pain, oral opioids have been a popular choice for the last few decades. Codeine has historically been the best-known oral opioid for use in children. However, availability and use of codeine have sharply declined due to safety concerns. A variety of other opioids have been used in place of codeine, but data are limited regarding their efficacy and safety in children. While the same pathways metabolize oral oxycodone as codeine, oxycodone's pharmacokinetics varies widely. There are also limited data on the safety and efficacy of oral hydromorphone and tramadol use for children. Oral morphine is the opiate alternative to codeine for which there is the most evidence of safety and efficacy in children. Research is needed to investigate both other opioids and non-opioid approaches to guide evidence-based analgesic therapy and treatment for moderate-to-severe pain in children.