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alfentanil injection, USP Clinical Pharmacology


12.1 Mechanism of Action

Alfentanil Injection is an opioid agonist. The principal actions of therapeutic value are analgesia and sedation.

12.2 Pharmacodynamics

Effects on the Central Nervous System

Alfentanil produces respiratory depression by direct action on brain stem respiratory centers. The respiratory depression involves both a reduction in the responsiveness of the brain stem respiratory centers to increases in carbon dioxide tension and to electrical stimulation.

Alfentanil causes miosis, even in total darkness. Pinpoint pupils are a sign of opioid overdose but are not pathognomonic (e.g., pontine lesions of hemorrhagic or ischemic origins may produce similar findings). Marked mydriasis rather than miosis may be seen due to hypoxia in overdose situations.

Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract and Other Smooth Muscle

Alfentanil causes a reduction in motility associated with an increase in smooth muscle tone in the antrum of the stomach and duodenum. Digestion of food in the small intestine is delayed and propulsive contractions are decreased. Propulsive peristaltic waves in the colon are decreased, while tone may be increased to the point of spasm resulting in constipation. Other opioid-induced effects may include a reduction in biliary and pancreatic secretions, spasm of sphincter of Oddi, and transient elevations in serum amylase.

Effects on the Cardiovascular System

Alfentanil produces peripheral vasodilation which may result in orthostatic hypotension or syncope.

Manifestations of histamine release and/or peripheral vasodilation may include pruritus, flushing, red eyes and sweating and/or orthostatic hypotension.

Effects on the Endocrine System

Opioids inhibit the secretion of ACTH, cortisol, and luteinizing hormone (LH) in humans. They also stimulate prolactin, growth hormone (GH) secretion, and pancreatic secretion of insulin and glucagon [see Adverse Reactions (6.2)].

Use of opioids for an extended period of time may influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis, leading to androgen deficiency that may manifest as low libido, impotence, erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, or infertility. The causal role of opioids in the clinical syndrome of hypogonadism is unknown because the various medical, physical, lifestyle, and psychological stressors that may influence gonadal hormone levels have not been adequately controlled for in studies conducted to date [see Adverse Reactions (6.2)].

Effects on the Immune System

Opioids have been shown to have a variety of effects on components of the immune system in in vitro and animal models. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown. Overall, the effects of opioids appear to be modestly immunosuppressive.

Concentration–Efficacy Relationships

In one study involving 15 patients administered alfentanil with nitrous oxide/oxygen, a narrow range of plasma alfentanil concentrations, approximately 310 to 340 ng/mL, was shown to provide adequate anesthesia for intra-abdominal surgery, while lower concentrations, approximately 190 ng/mL, blocked responses to skin closure. Plasma concentrations between 100 to 200 ng/mL provided adequate anesthesia for superficial surgery.

The minimum effective analgesic concentration will vary widely among patients, especially among patients who have been previously treated with extended-release agonist opioids [see Dosage and Administration (2.1)]. The minimum effective analgesic concentration of alfentanil for any individual patient may increase over time due to an increase in pain, the development of a new pain syndrome and/or the development of analgesic tolerance.

Concentration–Adverse Reaction Relationships

There is a relationship between increasing alfentanil plasma concentration and increasing frequency of dose-related opioid adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting, CNS effects, and respiratory depression. In opioid-tolerant patients, the situation may be altered by the development of tolerance to opioid-related adverse reactions [see Dosage and Administration (2.1, 2.2)].

12.3 Pharmacokinetics

Alfentanil Injection is administered intravenously for the induction of analgesia and anesthesia.


The onset of the anesthetic action is immediate when Alfentanil Injection is administered intravenously.


The pharmacokinetics of alfentanil can be described as a three-compartment model with sequential distribution half-lives of 1 and 14 minutes. Alfentanil has an apparent volume of distribution of 0.4 to 1 L/kg, with an average plasma clearance of 5 mL/kg/min. Plasma protein binding of alfentanil is approximately 92%.


Alfentanil has a terminal elimination half-life of 90 to 111 minutes.


The liver is the major site of biotransformation.


Only 1% of the dose is excreted as unchanged drug; urinary excretion is the major route of elimination of metabolites.
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