Effects of renal insufficiency on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of opioid analgesics

Drug Intell Clin Pharm. 1987 Oct;21(10):773-83. doi: 10.1177/106002808702101001.


The disposition and pharmacologic activities of morphine, meperidine, methadone, propoxyphene, dihydrocodeine, and codeine are reviewed. Dose-related toxicities of these opioid analgesics include mental obtundation, respiratory depression, and hypotension. Furthermore, convulsions have been associated with normeperidine and cardiac toxicities with norpropoxyphene. Hepatic metabolism is the primary route of elimination, except for methadone, for which there is also significant renal excretion. Although the pharmacokinetics of morphine are unchanged in renal insufficiency, accumulation of active metabolites may lead to narcosis. Similar accumulation of normeperidine and norpropoxyphene, metabolites of meperidine and propoxyphene, respectively, as well as propoxyphene itself, and dihydrocodeine and codeine may explain reports of adverse reactions in patients with impaired renal function. A high index of suspicion of opioid-induced toxicities should be maintained in patients who have renal dysfunction and receive opioids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism*
  • Narcotics / pharmacokinetics*
  • Narcotics / pharmacology


  • Narcotics