We reviewed the charts of 48 consecutive patients treated by our Palliative Care Team (PCT) during 1984 and compared these results with 50 consecutive patients treated during 1987. The composition of the PCT did not change between 1984 and 1987. The median equivalent daily dose of parenteral morphine (MEDD) before referral, after initial treatment by the PCT, and at the maximum prescribed by the PCT were 43 mg, 48 mg, and 96 mg in 1984, respectively, versus 60 mg (p less than 0.03), 60 mg (p less than 0.03), and 120 mg (p less than 0.12) in 1987, respectively. Seventeen of 43 patients were receiving mild narcotics in 1984 versus 7 of 48 patients in 1987 (p less than 0.01). Parenteral narcotics were used initially in 2% of patients in 1984 versus 46% of patients in 1987 (p less than 0.001). Poor pain control after the initial treatment was observed in 42% of patients in 1984 versus 26% in 1987 (p less than 0.01). Our results suggest that patients are being treated more aggressively by their physicians before referral to the PCT in 1987, that our PCT is using more aggressive initial treatment than in 1984, and that, notwithstanding these changes, there is still a significant proportion of patients in whom pain cannot be controlled before death. These results suggest that more research is necessary to better define intractable pain syndromes and develop adequate treatments for them.