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Clinically relevant concentrations of opioids for in vitro studies

Boland, Jason W.; Pockley, A. Graham


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Dr Jason Boland
Senior Clinical Lecturer and Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine

A. Graham Pockley


© 2016 Journal of Opioid Management, All Rights Reserved. Objectives: Numerous in vitro studies have evaluated the influence of opioids on many biological and immunological processes. The concentrations that have been used in these studies span a large range and often do not reflect levels that are present in the relevant patient groups. This article reviews the literature concerning the concentrations of opioids that are detected in patients so that the concentrations of opioids that are used for in vitro studies can better reflect those that are present clinically. This will enable scientists and clinicians to more effectively model and interpret potentially relevant clinical effects from in vitro studies. Methods: Data on the concentrations of six commonly used opioids from clinical studies in adults were collected by searching PubMed (Medline). Results: A total of 42 relevant studies were included in the review. Concentrations of the opioids from previous clinical studies were mostly between 1 and 10 ng/mL for buprenorphine, 1 and 10 ng/mL for fentanyl, 50 and 500 ng/mL for methadone, 25 and 250 ng/mL for morphine, 10 and 100 ng/mL for oxycodone, and 100 and 1,000 ng/mL for Tramadol and were dependent on the patient group and indication under investigation. Conclusions: Concentrations of opioids used in vitro should include those that are present in the relevant clinical setting if the effects of opioids detected in vitro are to be of potential relevance to the clinical setting. Therefore, it is essential that these concentrations in the relevant clinical context(s) are known.


Boland, J. W., & Pockley, A. G. (2016). Clinically relevant concentrations of opioids for in vitro studies. Journal of Opioid Management, 12(5), 313-321.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2016
Publication Date Sep 1, 2016
Deposit Date Jul 18, 2016
Journal Journal of opioid management
Print ISSN 1551-7489
Electronic ISSN 2375-0146
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 5
Pages 313-321
Keywords Opioid, Concentration, In vitro, Clinical studies, Human studies, Cancer pain
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information This is a description of an article accepted for future publication in: Journal of opioid management. The full text is not currently available in this repository.