Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 259–264 | Cite as

Levorphanol: the forgotten opioid

Review Article



Levorphanol (levo-3-hydroxy-N-methylmorphinan) is a strong opioid that is the only available opioid agonist of the morphinan series. Levorphanol was originally synthesized as a pharmacological alternative to morphine more than 40 years ago. It is considered a step-3 opioid by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has a greater potency than morphine. Analgesia produced by levorphanol is mediated via its interactions with μ, δ, and κ opioid receptors. Levorphanol is also an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist. There is evidence that levorphanol may inhibit uptake of norepinephrine and serotonin. Similar to morphine, levorphanol undergoes glucuronidation in the liver, and the glucuronidated products are excreted in the kidney. Levorphanol can be given orally, intravenously, and subcutaneously.


This article reviews the pharmacodynamics, pharmacology, and clinical efficacy for this often overlooked step-3 opioid.


The long half-life of the drug increases the potential for drug accumulation. Levorphanol has clinical efficacy in neuropathic pain.


Pain Levorphanol Opioids NMDA Glucuronidation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.VIP Palliative Care Program, Greater Los Angeles Healthcare, Division of Hematology/OncologyUCLA School of MedicineLos AngelesUSA

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