Tapentadol is a novel, centrally acting oral analgesic with a dual mode of action that has demonstrated efficacy in preclinical and clinical models of pain relief. The present study investigated and characterized the absorption, metabolism, and excretion of tapentadol in humans. Four healthy male subjects received a single 100-mg oral dose of 3-[14C]-labeled tapentadol HCl for evaluation of the pharmacokinetics of the drug and the excretion balance of radiocarbon. The concentration-time profiles of radiocarbon in whole blood and serum and radiocarbon excretion in the urine and feces, and the expired CO2 were determined. The serum pharmacokinetics and excretion kinetics of tapentadol and its conjugates were assessed, as was its tolerability. Absorption was rapid (with a mean maximum serum concentration [Cmax], 2.45 microg-eq/ml; a time to Cmax, 1.25-1.5 h), and the drug was present primarily in the form of conjugated metabolites (conjugated:unconjugated metabolites = 24:1). Excretion of radiocarbon was rapid and complete (>95% within 24 h; 99.9% within 5 days) and almost exclusively renal (99%: 69% conjugates; 27% other metabolites; 3% in unchanged form). No severe adverse events or clinically relevant changes in vital signs, laboratory measurements, electrocardiogram recording, or physical examination findings were reported. In our study group, it was found that a single oral dose of tapentadol was rapidly absorbed, then excreted into the urine, primarily in the form of conjugated metabolites, and was well tolerated.