Clinical pharmacokinetics of the newer neuromuscular blocking drugs

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1999 Mar;36(3):169-89. doi: 10.2165/00003088-199936030-00001.


The pharmacokinetics of 6 new neuromuscular blocking drugs are described. These are the aminosteroids pipecuronium bromide, rocuronium bromide and rapacuronium bromide (ORG-9487) and the benzylisoquinolinium diesters doxacurium chloride, mivacurium chloride and cisatracurium besilate. In healthy individuals, these drugs all have similar volumes of distribution. Their pharmacokinetics are influenced little by age or anaesthetic technique, but renal and hepatic disease may significantly alter their distribution and elimination. Pipecuronium resembles pancuronium in its pharmacokinetic and neuromuscular blocking profile, but is devoid of cardiovascular effects. It has a low clearance (0.16 L/h/kg) and long elimination half-life (120 minutes). It is largely eliminated through the kidney. Rocuronium has a similar pharmacokinetic profile to vecuronium but its onset of action is more rapid and duration of action slightly shorter. Its clearance (0.27 L/h/kg) is intermediate between those of pipecuronium and rapacuronium, but its elimination half-life is long (83 minutes). The pharmacokinetics of rocuronium are altered by renal and hepatic disease; the latter probably has the more significant effect. Rapacuronium has a rapid onset, and a bolus dose has a short duration of action. It has a high clearance (0.59 L/h/kg) but a long elimination half-life (112 minutes). Doxacurium has a pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic profile similar to pipecuronium. It has a high potency and is devoid of cardiovascular effects. In adults, it has a low clearance (0.15 L/h/kg) and long elimination half-life (87 minutes). Mivacurium is a mixture of 3 stereoisomers. It has a short to intermediate duration of action. It is hydrolysed by plasma cholinesterase. Inherited or acquired alterations in plasma cholinesterase activity are associated with changes in the pharmacokinetics and time course of action of mivacurium. The 2 active isomers (cis-trans and trans-trans) have a high clearance (4.74 L/h/kg) and very short elimination half-lives (approximately 2 minutes). Cisatracurium is the 1R-cis 1'R-cis isomer of atracurium. It has similar pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to atracurium. It is mainly broken down by Hofmann (non-enzymatic) degradation. Cisatracurium has an intermediate clearance (0.3 L/h/kg) and short elimination half-life (26 minutes). Hepatic and renal disease have little effect on its pharmacokinetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism
  • Androstanols / pharmacokinetics
  • Atracurium / analogs & derivatives
  • Atracurium / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoquinolines / pharmacokinetics
  • Mivacurium
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pipecuronium / pharmacokinetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Rocuronium
  • Vecuronium Bromide / analogs & derivatives
  • Vecuronium Bromide / pharmacokinetics


  • Androstanols
  • Isoquinolines
  • Neuromuscular Nondepolarizing Agents
  • Pipecuronium
  • Atracurium
  • Mivacurium
  • Vecuronium Bromide
  • rapacuronium
  • doxacurium
  • cisatracurium
  • Rocuronium