Background: Oral and subcutaneous morphine is widely used for the treatment of cancer-related pain; however, solid pharmacokinetic data on this practice are lacking. Furthermore, it is largely unknown which factors contribute to the variability in clearances of morphine and its metabolites and whether morphine clearance is related to treatment outcome.
Methods: Blood samples from 49 cancer patients treated with oral and/or subcutaneous morphine were prospectively collected and were used to develop a population pharmacokinetic model for morphine, morphine-3-glucuronide (M3G) and morphine-6-glucuronide (M6G). The influence of age, gender, renal function and several polymorphisms possibly related to the pharmacokinetics of the three compounds was investigated. In addition, the relation between treatment failure and morphine and metabolite clearances was explored.
Results: A one-compartment model including an extensive first-pass effect adequately described the data of morphine and its metabolites. Estimated mean area under the plasma concentration-time curve (AUC) ratios following oral versus subcutaneous administration were: M3G/morphine 29.7:1 vs. 11.1:1; M6G/morphine 5.26:1 vs. 1.95:1; and M3G/M6G 5.65:1 vs. 5.70:1. Renal function was significantly correlated with clearance of the metabolites, which increased 0.602 L/h per every 10 mL/min/1.73 m2 increase of estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), reaching a plateau for eGFR >90 mL/min/1.73 m2. The clearance of morphine or its metabolites was not found to be correlated with treatment failure.
Conclusion: The influence of age-, gender- and pharmacokinetic-related polymorphisms was not identified on the pharmacokinetics of morphine. Clearance of morphine or its metabolites was not found to explain treatment outcome; however, large variations in plasma concentrations of morphine, M3G and M6G support further studies on the relation between plasma concentrations and treatment outcome. Dutch Trial Register ID: NTR4369.