Preliminary pharmacokinetics of morphine and its major metabolites following intravenous administration of four doses to horses

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19 Scopus citations


The objective of the current study was to describe the pharmacokinetics of morphine and its metabolites following intravenous administration to the horse. A total of eight horses (two per dose group) received a single intravenous dose of 0.05, 0.1, 0.2, or 0.5 mg/kg morphine. Blood samples were collected up to 72 h postdrug administration, analyzed using LC-MS/MS and pharmacokinetic parameters determined. Behavior, step counts, and gastrointestinal activity were also assessed. The beta and gamma half-life for morphine ranged from 0.675 to 2.09 and 6.70 to 18.1 h, respectively, following administration of the four different IV doses. The volume of distribution at steady-state and systemic clearance ranged from 6.95 to 15.8 L/kg and 28.3 to 35.7 mL·min/kg, respectively. The only metabolites identified in blood samples were the primary metabolites identified in other species, 3-morphine-glucuronide and 6-morphine-glucuronide. Muscle fasciculations were observed at 0.2 and 0.5 mg/kg and ataxia noted at 0.5 mg/kg. Gastrointestinal activity was decreased in all dose groups (for up to 8 h in 7/8 horses and 24 h in one horse). This study extends previous studies and is the first report describing the metabolites of morphine in the horse. Plasma concentrations of morphine-3-glucuronide, a metabolite with demonstrated neuro-excitatory activity in mice, far exceeded that of morphine-6-glucuronide. Further study is warranted to assess whether the high levels of the morphine-3-glucuronide contribute to the dose-dependent excitation observed at high morphine doses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)374-381
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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