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Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996 Apr;59(4):469-75.

Methylnaltrexone prevents morphine-induced delay in oral-cecal transit time without affecting analgesia: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial.

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  • 1Committee on Clinical Pharmacology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Methylnaltrexone is a quaternary opioid antagonist with limited ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and the potential to antagonize the peripherally mediated effects of opioids. The effectiveness of methylnaltrexone in preventing morphine-induced changes in gastrointestinal motility and transit without affecting analgesia was evaluated in humans. Twelve healthy volunteers were given intravenous placebo, placebo plus 0.05 mg/kg morphine, or 0.45 mg/kg methylnaltrexone plus 0.05 mg/kg morphine. Oral-cecal transit time was assessed by the pulmonary hydrogen measurement technique, and analgesia was measured with use of the cold-pressor test. Morphine significantly increased oral-cecal transit time from 104.6 +/- 31.1 minutes (mean +/- SD) to 163.3 +/- 39.8 minutes (p < 0.01). Methylnaltrexone prevented 97% of morphine-induced increase in oral-cecal transit time (106.3 +/- 39.8 minutes; not significant compared with baseline; p < 0.01 compared with morphine alone). Methylnaltrexone did not affect the analgesic effect of morphine on both pain intensity and pain bothersomeness ratings. At a higher dose of morphine (0.1 mg/kg), our preliminary results indicated that 0.45 mg/kg methylnaltrexone also prevented the morphine-induced delay in oral-cecal transit time, with no effect on analgesia. Methylnaltrexone may be a useful adjunct to opioids for the relief of opioid-induced constipation.

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