Background: Remifentanil (GI87084B) is a new short-acting opioid with a unique ester structure. Metabolism of remifentanil by ester hydrolysis results in very rapid elimination. The aim of this study was to characterize in detail the pharmacokinetic profile of remifentanil in healthy male volunteers.
Methods: Ten healthy adult male volunteers received a zero-order infusion of remifentanil at doses ranging from 1 to 8 micrograms.kg-1.min-1 for 20 min. Frequent arterial blood samples were drawn and analyzed by gas chromatographic mass spectroscopy to determine the remifentanil blood concentrations. The raw pharmacokinetic data were analyzed using three different parametric compartmental modeling methods (traditional two-stage, naive pooled data, and NONMEM). The raw pharmacokinetic data also were analyzed using numeric deconvolution and a nonparametric moment technique. A computer simulation using hte pharmacokinetic parameters of the NONMEM compartmental model was performed to provide a more intuitively meaningful and clinically relevant description of the pharmacokinetics. The simulation estimated the time necessary to achieve a 50% decrease in remifentanil concentration after a variable-length infusion.
Results: For each parametric method, a three-compartment mamillary model that accurately describes remifentanil's concentration decay curve was constructed. The NONMEM analysis population pharmacokinetic parameters included a central clearance of 2.8 l/min, a volume of distribution at steady state of 32.8 l, and a terminal half-life of 48 min. The mean results of the nonparametric moment analysis included a clearance of 2.9 l/min, a volume of distribution at steady state of 31.8 l, and a mean residence time of 10.9 min. The computer simulation revealed the strikingly unique pharmacokinetic profile of remifentanil compared to that of the currently available fentanyl family of opioids.
Conclusions: Remifentanil is a new, short-acting opioid with promising clinical potential in anesthesiology.