Meperidine: a critical review

Am J Ther. 2002 Jan-Feb;9(1):53-68. doi: 10.1097/00045391-200201000-00010.


Meperidine was initially synthesized as an anticholinergic agent but was soon discovered to have analgesic properties. Although meperidine's anticholinergic effects were demonstrated in vivo, the anticholinergic effects on the biliary and renal tracts have not been demonstrated in vivo. Studies have clearly demonstrated that meperidine is no more efficacious in treating biliary or renal tract spasm than comparative mu opioids. The initial studies demonstrating the analgesic efficacy of meperidine were mostly case reports and not double-blind, randomized, controlled trials in specific populations. Subsequent comparative studies failed to demonstrate any advantages of meperidine over comparable doses of other analgesics. Meperidine was portrayed in practice and teaching as having unique clinical advantages. The analgesic effects of meperidine are not pronounced, and, in addition, meperidine use is complicated by unique side effects including serotonergic crisis and normeperidine toxicity. Meperidine's poor efficacy, toxicity, and multiple drug interactions have resulted in a movement to replace meperidine with more efficacious and less toxic opioid analgesics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjuvants, Anesthesia* / pharmacokinetics
  • Adjuvants, Anesthesia* / pharmacology
  • Adjuvants, Anesthesia* / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / pharmacokinetics
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Meperidine* / pharmacokinetics
  • Meperidine* / pharmacology
  • Meperidine* / therapeutic use
  • Muscle, Smooth / drug effects
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Respiration / drug effects


  • Adjuvants, Anesthesia
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Meperidine