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Anesthesiology. 1996 Apr;84(4):821-33.

Remifentanil versus alfentanil: comparative pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics in healthy adult male volunteers.

Author information

1
Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical Center, Palo Alto, California, USA. tegan@anest.med.utah.edu

Erratum in

  • Anesthesiology 1996 Sep;85(3):695.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Remifentanil is an esterase-metabolized opioid with a rapid clearance. The aim of this study was to contrast the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of remifentanil and alfentanil in healthy, adult male volunteers.

METHODS:

Ten volunteers received infusions of remifentanil and alfentanil on separate study sessions using a randomized, open-label crossover design. Arterial blood samples were analyzed to determine drug blood concentrations. The electroencephalogram was employed as the measure of drug effect. The pharmacokinetics were characterized using a moment analysis, a nonlinear mixed effects model (NONMEM) population analysis, and context-sensitive half-time computer simulations. After processing the raw electroencephalogram to obtain the spectral edge parameter, the pharmacodynamics were characterized using an effect compartment, inhibitory maximum effect model.

RESULTS:

Pharmacokinetically, the two drugs are similar in terms of steady-state distribution volume (VD(SS)), but remifentanil's central clearance (CLc)) is substantially greater. The NONMEM analysis population pharmacokinetic parameters for remifentanil include a CLc of 2.9 l x min(-1), a VDss of 21.81, and a terminal half-life of 35.1 min. Corresponding NONMEM parameters for alfentanil are 0.36 l x min(-1), 34.11, and 94.5 min. Pharmacodynamically, the drugs are similar in terms of the time required for equilibration between blood and the effect-site concentrations, as evidenced by a T(12)k(e0) for remifentanil of 0.75 min [corrected] and 0.96 min for alfentanil. However, remifentanil is 19 times more potent than alfentanil, with an effective concentration for 50% maximal effect of 19.9 ng x ml(-1) versus 375.9 ng x ml(-1) for alfentanil.

CONCLUSIONS:

Compared to alfentanil, the high clearance of remifentanil, combined with its small steady-state distribution volume, results in a rapid decline in blood concentration after termination of an infusion. With the exception of remifentanil's nearly 20-times greater potency (30-times if alfentanil partitioning between whole blood and plasma is considered), the drugs are pharmacodynamically similar.

PMID:
8638836
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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