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Anesthesiology. 2000 Sep;93(3):619-28.

Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of inhaled versus intravenous morphine in healthy volunteers.

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Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



A new pulmonary drug delivery system produces aerosols from disposable packets of medication. This study compared the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of morphine delivered by an AERx prototype with intravenous morphine.


Fifteen healthy volunteers were enrolled. Two subjects were administered four inhalations of 2.2 mg morphine each at 1-min intervals or 4.4 mg over 3 min by intravenous infusion. Thirteen subjects were given twice the above doses, i.e., eight inhalations or 8.8 mg intravenously over 7 min. Arterial blood sampling was performed every minute during administration and at 2, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20, 45, 60, 90, 120, 150, 180, and 240 min after administration. The effect of morphine was assessed by measuring pupil diameter and ventilatory response to a hypercapnic challenge. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic analyses were performed simultaneously using mixed-effect models.


The pharmacokinetic data after intravenous administration were described by a three-exponent decay model preceded by a lag time. The pharmacokinetic model for administration by inhalation consisted of the three-exponent intravenous pharmacokinetic model preceded by a two-exponent absorption model. The authors found that, with administration by inhalation, the total bioavailability was 59%, of which 43% was absorbed almost instantaneously and 57% was absorbed with a half-life of 18 min. The median times to the half-maximal miotic effects of morphine were 10 and 5.5 min after inhalation and intravenous administration, respectively (P < 0.01). The pharmacodynamic parameter ke0 was approximately 0.003 min-1.


The onset and duration of the effects of morphine are similar after intravenous administration or inhalation via this new pulmonary drug delivery system. Morphine bioavailability after such administration is 59% of the dose loaded into the dosage form.

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