This is an update of a Cochrane Review first published in 2004 (Issue 1) and previously updated in 2012 (Issue 10). Anxiety is common in palliative care patients. It can be a natural response to the complex uncertainty of having a life-limiting illness or impending death, but it may represent a clinically significant issue in its own right.
To assess the effectiveness of drug therapy for treating symptoms of anxiety in adults with a progressive life-limiting illness who are thought to be in their last year of life.
We ran the searches for this update to May 2016. We searched the CENTRAL, MEDLINE (Ovid), Embase (Ovid), CINAHL (EBSCO), PsychLIT (Silver Platter) and PsycINFO (Ovid). We searched seven trials registers and seven pharmaceutical industry trials registers. We handsearched the conference abstracts of the European Association of Palliative Care.
Randomised controlled trials which examined the effect of drug therapy for the treatment of symptoms of anxiety in adult palliative care patients, that is, people with a known progressive life-limiting illness that is no longer responsive to curative treatment, including advanced heart, respiratory and neurological diseases (including dementia). Comparator treatments included placebo; another drug therapy or different dose schedule; or a non-drug intervention such as counselling, cognitive behaviour therapies or relaxation therapies.
Two review authors independently screened titles and abstracts to identify potentially relevant papers for inclusion in the review. We sought full-text reports for all papers retained at this stage and two reviews authors independently assessed these for inclusion in the review. We planned to assess risk of bias and extract data including information on adverse events. We planned to assess the evidence using GRADE and to create a 'Summary of findings' table.
In this update, we identified 707 potentially relevant papers and of these we sought the full-text reports of 10 papers. On examination of these full-text reports, we excluded eight and two are awaiting classification as we have insufficient information to make a decision. Thus, in this update, we found no studies which met our inclusion criteria. For the original review, we identified, and then excluded, the full-text reports of six potentially relevant studies. For the 2012 update, we sought, and excluded, two full-text reports. Thus, we found no studies that assessed the effectiveness of drugs to treat symptoms of anxiety in palliative care patients.
There is a lack of evidence to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of drug therapy for symptoms of anxiety in adult palliative care patients. To date, we have found no studies that meet the inclusion criteria for this review. We are awaiting further information for two studies which may be included in a future update. Randomised controlled trials which assess management of anxiety as a primary endpoint are required to establish the benefits and harms of drug therapy for the treatment of anxiety in palliative care.