Journal of pain & palliative care pharmacotherapy

Using haloperidol as an antiemetic in palliative care: informing practice through evidence from cancer treatment and postoperative contexts.

PMID 23627663


Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms in palliative care. Haloperidol is often used as an antiemetic in this context, although direct evidence supporting this practice is limited. To evaluate the efficacy and clinical use of haloperidol as an antiemetic in nonpalliative care contexts to inform practice, the authors conducted a rapid review of (i) published evidence to supplement existing systematic reviews, and (ii) practical aspects affecting the use of haloperidol including formulations and doses that are commonly available internationally. In nausea and vomiting related to cancer treatment, haloperidol was superior to control in two small studies. In postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), two randomized controlled trials found treatment with haloperidol comparable to ondansetron. In palliative care, an observational study found a complete response rate of 24% with haloperidol (one in four patients) which would be consistent with a number needed to treat (NNT) of 3 to 5 derived from PONV. There remains insufficient direct evidence to definitively support the use of haloperidol for the management of nausea and vomiting in palliative care. However, generalizing evidence from other clinical contexts may have some validity.

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