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Anesthesiology. 1999 Apr;90(4):1026-38.

Pharmacokinetic modeling of M6G formation after oral administration of morphine in healthy volunteers.

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Department of Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany.



Morphine is metabolized to two major metabolites, morphine-3-glucuronide and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G). Under the conditions of long-term oral morphine administration, the accumulation of M6G may contribute to the analgesic effects, but it may also cause respiratory depression.


Five healthy male volunteers (ages 25-34 yr) received 90 mg MST (morphine sulfate 5H2O sustained-released tablet, equivalent to 67.8 mg oral morphine). Multiple plasma and urine samples were taken for as long as 14 and 36 h, respectively. Individual pharmacokinetics after intravenous administration of morphine and M6G were available from a previous investigation. A new model that considers the M6G-plasma profile as a sum of the input from the first-pass metabolism of morphine and the input from systemically available morphine was applied to the plasma concentration versus time curves of M6G. The concentrations of M6G at the effect site after long-term morphine administration were simulated.


The fraction of morphine absorbed from the gut was 82+/-14%. Of this, 42+/-8% passed through the liver, resulting in an oral bioavailability of morphine of 34+/-9%. Of the total amount of M6G, 71+/-7% was formed during the first-pass metabolism, and 29+/-7% was formed by metabolism of systemic morphine. After 36 h, the amounts of M6G and morphine excreted in the urine were 92+/-17% and 9+/-3%, respectively. Simulation of effect-site concentrations of M6G indicated that after multiple oral dosing of morphine in patients with normal liver and renal function, M6G might reach concentrations two times greater than that of morphine.


M6G may contribute to the analgesic and side effects seen with long-term morphine treatment. The current model of morphine and M6G pharmacokinetics after oral administration of morphine may serve as a pharmacokinetic basis for experiments evaluating the analgesic contribution of M6G with long-term oral dosing of morphine.

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