Determination of the potency of remifentanil compared with alfentanil using ventilatory depression as the measure of opioid effect.
BACKGROUND: Remifentanil is a new opioid with properties similar to other mu-specific agonists. To establish its pharmacologic profile relative to other known opioids, it is important to determine its potency. This study investigated the relative potency of remifentanil compared with alfentanil. METHODS: Thirty young healthy males were administered double-blind remifentanil or alfentanil intravenously for 180 min using a computer-assisted continuous infusion device. Depression of ventilation was assessed by the minute ventilatory response to 7.5% CO2 administered via a "bag in the box" system. The target concentration of the study drug was adjusted to obtain 40-70% depression of baseline minute ventilation. Multiple blood samples were obtained during and following the infusion. The concentration-effect relationship of each drug was modeled, and the concentration needed to provide a 50% depression of ventilation (EC50) was determined. RESULTS: Only 11 subjects in each drug group completed the study; however, there were sufficient data in 28 volunteers to model their EC50 values. The EC50 (mean and 95% confidence interval) for depression of minute ventilation with remifentanil was 1.17 (0.85-1.49) ng/ml and the EC50 for alfentanil was 49.4 (32.4-66.5) ng/ml. CONCLUSION: Based on depression of the minute ventilatory response to 7.5% CO2, remifentanil is approximately 40 (26-65) times more potent than alfentanil when remifentanil and alfentanil whole-blood concentrations are compared. As alfentanil is usually measured as a plasma concentration, remifentanil is approximately 70 (41-104) times more potent than alfentanil when remifentanil whole-blood concentration is compared with alfentanil plasma concentration. This information should be used when performing comparative studies between remifentanil and other opioids.
Glass, PS; Iselin-Chaves, IA; Goodman, D; Delong, E; Hermann, DJ
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