Almost everyone with mesothelioma experiences pain, the more so as the disease advances. Most patients use of a variety of pain medications to reduce pain and maintain their quality of life. Here are the kinds of pain that people with mesothelioma must deal with, and the types of pain medications used to control the pain.
Mild to moderate pain
Non-opioids: Examples are acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen. You can buy many of these over the counter, without a prescription. Some stronger NSAIDs do require a prescription.
Tingling and burning pain
Two other groups of drugs, antidepressants and antiseizure medications, have proven to be very useful in managing tingling and burning sensations. Taking an antidepressant does not mean that you are depressed or have a mental illness, and taking an antiseizure medication does not mean that you are going to have seizures. If your doctor prescribes one of these s/he is simply making use of some additional therapeutic properties of these drugs.
Antidepressants: Drugs such amitriptyline, imipramine, doxepin and trazodone have proved helpful in alleviating pain when there has been nerve damage. They are also helpful as aids for sleeping. A prescription is needed for these medicines.
Antiepileptics: Carbamezeping, lamotrine, and gabapentin are three of the most used antiseizure medications. All of these require a prescription.
Moderate to severe pain
Opioids: Examples are hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl and methadone. All of these medications require a prescription. Nonopioids may also be used along with opioids to control moderate to severe pain.
ACTIQ (Oral Transmucosal Fentanyl Citrate) is the first analgesic (pain relief) drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration specifically for breakthrough pain. It comes as a lozenge on a handle, a lollipop for pain. Fentanyl, ACTIQ’s active ingredient, is a very effective opiate, 100 times stronger than an equivalent dose of morphine. It dissolves in saliva, and is absorbed through the mucus membranes that line the mouth. Pain relief occurs within 5 to 10 minutes. People find the drug easy to use, effective, and easily tolerated. Oxycodone and hydromorphone can also be used for breakthrough pain, but neither of these are available as lozenges in the mouth absorption.