Is There a Role for 5-HT3 Receptor Antagonists in the Treatment of Opioid-Induced Pruritus?

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2018 Apr;35(4):740-744. doi: 10.1177/1049909117736062. Epub 2017 Oct 11.


Pruritus is an unpleasant irritation symptom that can be related to various systemic and dermatological conditions. Although underreported, pruritus is a common adverse event noted after use of opioid pain medications. This article reviews the current understanding of the mechanism of opioid-induced pruritus (OIP) and various pharmacological therapies. 5-Hydroxytryptamine 3 (5-HT3) receptor antagonists are potentially effective for treating OIP and may be a valuable treatment option if further controlled studies are encouraging.

Keywords: neuraxial; ondansetron; opioid; pruritus; receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Drug Eruptions / drug therapy*
  • Drug Eruptions / etiology
  • Humans
  • Pruritus / chemically induced
  • Pruritus / drug therapy*
  • Serotonin 5-HT3 Receptor Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Serotonin 5-HT3 Receptor Antagonists