The pharmacology of spinal opioids and ziconotide for the treatment of non-cancer pain

J. E. Pope, T. R. Deer, K. Amirdelfan, W. P. McRoberts, N. Azeem

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Intrathecal drug delivery has undergone a revitalization following a better understanding of this delivery route and its pharmacokinetics. Driven by patient safety and outcomes, clinicians are motivated to rethink the traditional spinal infusion pump patient selection criteria and indications. We review the current understanding of the pharmacology of commonly employed intrathecal agents and the clinical relevance. Methods: Search strategies for data acquisition included Medline database, PubMed, Google scholar, along with international and national professional meeting content, with key words including pharmacology of opioids, intrathecal therapy, ziconotide, pharmacokinetics, and intrathecal drug delivery. The search results were limited to the English language. Results: Over 300 papers were identified. The literature was condensed and digested to evaluate the most commonly used medications in practice, sto serve as a foundation for review. We review on-label medications: ziconotide and morphine, and off label medications including fentanyl, sufentail, and hydromorphine. Conclusion: Intrathecal therapy has level-one evidence for use for malignant pain and nonmalignant pain, with continued cost savings and improved safety. To most effectively serve our patients, a clear appreciation for the pharmacology of these commonly employed medication is paramount.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)206-216
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Neuropharmacology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Bentham Science Publishers.


  • Dilaudid
  • Fentanyl
  • Hydromorphone
  • Intrathecal therapy
  • Morphine
  • Pharmacodynamics
  • Pharmacokinetics
  • Prialt
  • Sufentanil
  • Ziconotide


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