What is/are Fentanyl?
Fentanyl (also known as fentanil, brand names Sublimaze, Actiq, Durogesic, Duragesic, Fentora, Matrifen, Haldid, Onsolis, Instanyl, Abstral, Lazanda and others) is a potent, synthetic opioid analgesic with a rapid onset and short duration of action. It is a strong agonist at the μ-opioid receptors. Historically it has been used to treat breakthrough pain and is commonly used in pre-procedures as a pain reliever as well as an anesthetic in combination with a benzodiazepine.
Fentanyl is approximately 100 times more potent than morphine, with 100 micrograms of fentanyl approximately equivalent to 10 mg of morphine and 75 mg of pethidine (meperidine) in analgesic activity. It has an LD50 of 3.1 milligrams per kilogram in rats, and an LD50 of 0.03 milligrams per kilogram in monkeys.
Fentanyl was first synthesized by Paul Janssen in 1960 following the medical inception of pethidine several years earlier. Janssen developed fentanyl by assaying analogues of the structurally related drug pethidine for opioid activity. The widespread use of fentanyl triggered the production of fentanyl citrate (the salt formed by combining fentanyl and citric acid in a 1:1 stoichiometry), which entered the clinical practice as a general anaesthetic under the trade name Sublimaze in the 1960s. Following this, many other fentanyl analogues were developed and introduced into medical practice, including sufentanil, alfentanil, remifentanil, and lofentanil.
In the mid-1990s, fentanyl was first introduced for widespread palliative use with the clinical introduction of the Duragesic patch, followed in the next decade by the introduction of the first quick-acting prescription formations of fentanyl for personal use, the Actiq lollipop and Fentora buccal tablets. Through the delivery method of transdermal patches, as of 2012 fentanyl was the most widely used synthetic opioid in clinical practice, with several new delivery methods currently in development, including a sublingual spray for cancer patients.
Fentanyl and derivatives have been used as recreational drugs. Fatalities arising from its use have been recorded.
Intravenous fentanyl is extensively used for anesthesia and analgesia, most often in operating rooms, intensive care units and in the prehospital medical setting. The concept of a general anesthetic is based upon a balance between an opioid and a hypnotic agent. Hence, fentanyl is mainly used for induction of anaesthesia alongside a hypnotic agent like propofol. It is also administered in combination with a benzodiazepine, such as midazolam, to produce procedural sedation for endoscopy, cardiac catheterization, oral surgery, etc., and is often used in the management of chronic pain including cancer pain.
Fentanyl transdermal patch (Durogesic/Duragesic/Matrifen) is used in chronic pain management. The patches work by releasing fentanyl into body fats, which then slowly release the drug into the bloodstream over 48 to 72 hours, allowing for long-lasting relief from pain. The patches are available in generic form and are available for lower costs. Dosage is based on the size of the patch, since the transdermal absorption rate is generally constant at a constant skin temperature.
Rate of absorption is dependent on a number of factors. Body temperature, skin type, amount of body fat, and placement of the patch can have major effects. The different delivery systems used by different makers will also affect individual rates of absorption. The typical patch will take effect under normal circumstances usually within 8–12 hours, thus fentanyl patches are often prescribed with another opiate (such as morphine or oxycodone) to handle breakthrough pain.
Fentanyl lozenges (Actiq) are a solid formulation of fentanyl citrate on a stick in the form of a lollipop that dissolves slowly in the mouth for transmucosal absorption. These lozenges are intended for opioid-tolerant individuals and are effective in treating breakthrough cancer pain. It is also useful for breakthrough pain for those suffering bone injuries, severe back pain, neuropathy, arthritis, and some other examples of chronic nonmalignant pain. The unit is a berry-flavored lozenge on a stick which is swabbed on the mucosal surfaces inside the mouth—inside of the cheeks, under and on the tongue and gums—to release the fentanyl quickly into the system. It is most effective when the lozenge is consumed in 15 minutes. The drug is less effective if swallowed, as despite good absorbance from the small intestine there is extensive first-pass metabolism, leading to an oral bioavailability of 33%. These are now available in the United States in generic form, through an FTC consent agreement. However, most patients find it takes 10–15 minutes to use all of one lozenge, and those with a dry mouth cannot use this route. In addition, nurses are unable to document how much of a lozenge has been used by a patient, making drug records inaccurate.
During 2008-09, a wide range of fentanyl preparations became available, including buccal tablets or patches, nasal sprays, inhalers and active transdermal patches (heat or electrical). High-quality evidence for their superiority over existing preparations is currently lacking. Some preparations such as nasal sprays and inhalers may result in a rapid response, but the fast onset of high blood levels may compromise safety (see below). In addition, the expense of some of these appliances may greatly reduce their cost-effectiveness.
On July 16, 2009, the FDA approved Onsolis (BEMA Fentanyl) for breakthrough cancer pain. Onsolis incorporates "bioerodible mucoadhesive" technology, a small soluble film that contains fentanyl which is placed on the inside cheek of the mouth.
In palliative care, transdermal fentanyl has a definite, but limited, role for:
- Patients already stabilized on other opioids who have persistent swallowing problem and cannot tolerate other parenteral routes such as subcutaneous administration.
- Patients with moderate to severe renal failure.
- Troublesome adverse effects on morphine, hydromorphone or oxycodone.
Fentanyl is sometimes given intrathecally as part of spinal anesthesia or epidurally for epidural anesthesia and analgesia. Because of fentanyl's high lipid solubility, its effects are more localized than morphine and some clinicians prefer to use morphine to get a wider spread of analgesia.
Fentanyl's major side effects (more than 10% of patients) include diarrhea, nausea, constipation, dry mouth, somnolence, confusion, asthenia (weakness), and sweating and, less frequently (3 to 10% of patients), abdominal pain, headache, fatigue, anorexia and weight loss, dizziness, nervousness, hallucinations, anxiety, depression, flu-like symptoms, dyspepsia (indigestion), dyspnea (shortness of breath), hypoventilation, apnea, and urinary retention. Fentanyl use has also been associated with aphasia.
Despite being a more potent analgesic, fentanyl tends to induce less nausea, as well as less histamine-mediated itching, in relation to morphine.
Like other lipid-soluble drugs, the pharmacodynamics of fentanyl are poorly understood. The manufacturers acknowledge there is no data on the pharmacodynamics of fentanyl in elderly, cachectic or debilitated patients, frequently the type of patient for whom transdermal fentanyl is being used. This may explain the increasing number of reports of respiratory depression events since the late 1970s. In 2006 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began investigating several respiratory deaths, but doctors in the United Kingdom were not warned of the risks with fentanyl until September 2008. The FDA reported in April 2012 that young children had died or become seriously ill from accidental exposure to a fentanyl skin patch.
The precise reason for sudden respiratory depression is unclear, but there are several hypotheses:
- Saturation of the body fat compartment in patients with rapid and profound body fat loss (patients with cancer, cardiac or infection-induced cachexia can lose 80% of their body fat).
- Early carbon dioxide retention causing cutaneous vasodilatation (releasing more fentanyl), together with acidosis which reduces protein binding of fentanyl, releasing yet more fentanyl.
- Reduced sedation, losing a useful early warning sign of opioid toxicity and resulting in levels closer to respiratory depressant levels.
Fentanyl has a therapeutic index of 270.
Mechanism of action
Fentanyl provides some of the effects typical of other opioids through its agonism of the opioid receptors. Its strong potency in relation to that of morphine is largely due to its high lipophilicity, per the Meyer-Overton correlation. Because of this, it can more easily penetrate the CNS.
Fentanyl binds μ-opioid G-protein-coupled receptors, which inhibit pain neurotransmitter release by decreasing intracellular Ca2+ levels.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Fentanyl, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.