Plasma levels of morphine and morphine glucuronides in the treatment of cancer pain: relationship to renal function and route of administration.

School of Pharmacy, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.
European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (Impact Factor: 2.7). 02/1990; 38(2):121-4. DOI: 10.1007/BF00265969
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT There is growing evidence that renally-impaired patients receiving morphine therapy are at greater risk of developing opiate toxicity, due to the accumulation of an active metabolite, morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G), which is usually excreted by the kidneys. This study examined the relationships between morphine dosage, renal function, and trough plasma concentrations of morphine and its glucuronide metabolites in 21 patients (aged mean: 68.5 years: 11 males) receiving either oral or subcutaneous morphine for terminal cancer pain. The median daily morphine dosages ( were: orally 1.87 (range 0.37-6.82) and subcutaneously 1.64 (range 0.22-3.60). The median plasma concentrations of morphine, morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G), and M6G ( were: 36.0, 1035.2, and 142.3, respectively. The plasma concentrations of morphine, M3G and M6G were each significantly related to the daily morphine dosage (n = 21, Spearman r = 0.79, 0.91, and 0.88 respectively). Accumulation of the morphine glucuronides was dependent on renal function. The plasma concentrations of M3G and M6G, when divided by the morphine concentration, were significantly related to the calculated creatinine clearance of the patient. Patients receiving oral morphine had higher plasma concentration ratios of glucuronide/morphine than those receiving subcutaneous therapy, presumably due to first-pass glucuronidation. The results of this study confirm that accumulation of the pharmacologically active M6G is related to renal function, which probably explains the observation that morphine dosage requirements are generally reduced in patients with renal impairment.

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    Anesthesiology 01/2000; 93(5):1368. DOI:10.1097/00000542-200011000-00051 · 6.17 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Background. Morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G) is a strong mu-receptor agonist with higher affinity than morphine itself. It has been suggested that M6G contributes to the analgesic effect after administration of morphine, but the extent of its contribution remains unclear. Methods. In order to elucidate the relative contribution of both drugs to the overall analgesic effect mediated by the mu-receptor, published data on mu-receptor binding, plasma protein binding, concentrations [preferably area under the concentration-time curve (AUC)] of morphine and M6G in blood or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), or concentration ratios were used to calculate free CSF concentration corrected for receptor binding for each compound. To compare different routes of administration, free CSF concentrations of M and M6G corrected for potency were added and compared with oral administration. Results. Based on AUC data, there is a major contribution of M6G to the overall analgesic effect; the mean contributions being estimated as 96.6%, 85.6%, 85.4%, and 91.3% after oral, s.c., i.v., and rectal administration of morphine, respectively. In patients with renal insufficiency, 97.6% of the analgesic effect is caused by M6G when morphine is given orally. Owing to accumulation of M6G over time in these patients, morphine may be regarded as a prodrug. Conclusions. When administering morphine to patients, the analgesic effect is mainly caused by M6G instead of morphine itself, irrespective of the route of administration. Therefore, the patient's kidney function plays a key role in determining the optimal daily dose of morphine.
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