, Volume 73, Issue 12, pp 1297-1306

Treatment of Opioid-Induced Constipation: Focus on the Peripheral μ-Opioid Receptor Antagonist Methylnaltrexone

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Abstract

Most prescribed opioids exert their analgesic effects via activation of central μ-opioid receptors. However, μ-opioid receptors are also located in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and activation of these receptors by opioids can lead to GI-related adverse effects, in particular opioid-induced constipation (OIC). OIC has been associated with increased use of healthcare resources, increased healthcare costs, and decreased quality of life for patients. Nonpharmacologic (e.g., increased fiber uptake) and pharmacologic agents (e.g., laxatives) may be considered for the treatment and prevention of OIC. However, many interventions, such as laxatives alone, are generally insufficient to reverse OIC because they do not target the underlying cause of OIC, opioid activation of μ-opioid receptors in the GI tract. Therefore, there has been keen interest in antagonism of the μ-opioid receptor in the periphery to inhibit the effects of opioids in the GI tract. In this review, currently available pharmacologic therapies for the treatment and prevention of OIC are summarized briefly, with a primary focus on the administration of the peripheral μ-opioid receptor antagonist methylnaltrexone bromide in patients with OIC and advanced illness who are receiving palliative care. Also, clinical trial data of methylnaltrexone treatment in patients with OIC and other pain conditions (i.e., chronic noncancer pain and pain after orthopedic surgery) are reviewed. Data support that methylnaltrexone is efficacious for the treatment of OIC and has a favorable tolerability profile.