Butorphanol Tartrate

BUTORPHANOL TARTRATE- butorphanol tartrate injection, solution
West-ward Pharmaceutical Corp


Butorphanol tartrate is a synthetically derived opioid agonist-antagonist analgesic of the phenanthrene series. The chemical name is (-)-17-(cyclobutylmethyl) morphinan-3,14-diol [S-(R*,R*)]-2,3-dihydroxybutanedioate(1:1)(salt). The molecular formula is C21 H29 NO2 ,C4 H6 O6 , which corresponds to a molecular weight of 477.55 and the following structural formula:

Structural Formula
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Butorphanol tartrate is a white crystalline substance. The dose is expressed as the tartrate salt. One milligram of the salt is equivalent to 0.68 mg of the free base. The n-octanol/aqueous buffer partition coefficient of butorphanol is 180:1 at pH 7.5.

Butorphanol tartrate injection is a sterile, parenteral, aqueous solution of butorphanol tartrate for intravenous or intramuscular administration. In addition to 1 or 2 mg of butorphanol tartrate, each mL of butorphanol tartrate solution contains 3.3 mg of citric acid, 6.4 mg sodium citrate, and 6.4 mg sodium chloride, and 0.1 mg benzethonium chloride (in multiple dose vial only) as a preservative.


General Pharmacology and Mechanism of Action

Butorphanol is a mixed agonist-antagonist with low intrinsic activity at receptors of the µ-opioid type (morphine-like). It is also an agonist at κ-opioid receptors.

Its interactions with these receptors in the central nervous system apparently mediate most of its pharmacologic effects, including analgesia.

In addition to analgesia, CNS effects include depression of spontaneous respiratory activity and cough, stimulation of the emetic center, miosis, and sedation. Effects possibly mediated by non-CNS mechanisms include alteration in cardiovascular resistance and capacitance, bronchomotor tone, gastrointestinal secretory and motor activity, and bladder sphincter activity.

In an animal model, the dose of butorphanol tartrate required to antagonize morphine analgesia by 50% was similar to that for nalorphine, less than that for pentazocine and more than that for naloxone.

The pharmacological activity of butorphanol metabolites has not been studied in humans; in animal studies, butorphanol metabolites have demonstrated some analgesic activity.

In human studies of butorphanol (see Clinical Trials), sedation is commonly noted at doses of 0.5 mg or more. Narcosis is produced by 10-12 mg doses of butorphanol administered over 10 to 15 minutes intravenously.

Butorphanol, like other mixed agonist-antagonists with a high affinity for the κ-receptor, may produce unpleasant psychotomimetic effects in some individuals.

Nausea and/or vomiting may be produced by doses of 1 mg or more administered by any route.

In human studies involving individuals without significant respiratory dysfunction, 2 mg of butorphanol IV and 10 mg of morphine sulfate IV depressed respiration to a comparable degree. At higher doses, the magnitude of respiratory depression with butorphanol is not appreciably increased; however, the duration of respiratory depression is longer. Respiratory depression noted after administration of butorphanol to humans by any route is reversed by treatment with naloxone, a specific opioid antagonist (see OVERDOSAGE: Treatment).

Butorphanol tartrate demonstrates antitussive effects in animals at doses less than those required for analgesia.

Hemodynamic changes noted during cardiac catheterization in patients receiving single 0.025 mg/kg intravenous doses of butorphanol have included increases in pulmonary artery pressure, wedge pressure and vascular resistance, increases in left ventricular end diastolic pressure, and in systemic arterial pressure.


The analgesic effect of butorphanol is influenced by the route of administration. Onset of analgesia is within a few minutes for intravenous administration and within 15 minutes for intramuscular injection.

Peak analgesic activity occurs within 30–60 minutes following intravenous and intramuscular administration.

The duration of analgesia varies depending on the pain model as well as the route of administration, but is generally 3–4 hours with IM and IV doses as defined by the time 50% of patients required remedication. In postoperative studies, the duration of analgesia with IV or IM butorphanol was similar to morphine, meperidine, and pentazocine when administered in the same fashion at equipotent doses (see Clinical Trials).


Butorphanol Tartrate is rapidly absorbed after IM injection and peak plasma levels are reached in 20 to 40 minutes.

Following its initial absorption/distribution phase, the single dose pharmacokinetics of butorphanol by the intravenous and intramuscular routes of administration are similar (see Figure 1).

Figure 1—Butorphanol Plasma Levels After IV and IM Administration of 2-mg Dose

Plasma Levels

Serum protein binding is independent of concentration over the range achieved in clinical practice (up to 7 ng/mL) with a bound fraction of approximately 80%.

The volume of distribution of butorphanol varies from 305–901 liters and total body clearance from 52 to 154 liters/hr (see Table 1).

(a) Young subjects (n=24) are from 20 to 40 years old and elderly (n=24) are greater than 65 years of age.
(b) Time to peak plasma concentration.
(c) Peak plasma concentration normalized to 1-mg dose.
(d) Area under the plasma concentration-time curve after a 1-mg dose.
(e) Derived from IV data.
Table 1:Mean Pharmacokinetic Parameters of Butorphanol in Young and Elderly Subjectsa Intravenous
Parameters Young Elderly
Tmax b (h)
Cmax c (ng/mL)
AUC (inf)d (h•ng/mL) 7.24 (1.57)(4.40-9.77) 8.71 (2.02)(4.76-13.03)
Half-life (h) 4.56 (1.67)(2.06-8.70) 5.61 (1.36)(3.25-8.79)
AbsoluteBioavailability (%)
Volume ofDistributionf (L) 487 (155)(305-901) 552 (124)(305-737)
Total BodyClearance (L/h) 99 (23)(70-154) 82 (21)(52-143)

The drug is transported across the blood brain and placental barriers and into human milk (see PRECAUTIONS: Labor and Delivery and Nursing Mothers).

Butorphanol is extensively metabolized in the liver. Metabolism is qualitatively and quantitatively similar following intravenous or intramuscular administration. Oral bioavailability is only 5 to 17% because of extensive first pass metabolism of butorphanol.

The major metabolite of butorphanol is hydroxybutorphanol, while norbutorphanol is produced in small amounts. Both have been detected in plasma following administration of butorphanol, with norbutorphanol present at trace levels at most time points. The elimination half-life of hydroxybutorphanol is about 18 hours and, as a consequence, considerable accumulation (<5-fold) occurs when butorphanol is dosed to steady state (1 mg transnasally q6h for 5 days).

Elimination occurs by urine and fecal excretion. When 3 H labelled butorphanol is administered to normal subjects, most (70 to 80%) of the dose is recovered in the urine, while approximately 15% is recovered in the feces.

About 5% of the dose is recovered in the urine as butorphanol. Forty-nine percent is eliminated in the urine as hydroxybutorphanol. Less than 5% is excreted in the urine as norbutorphanol.

In renally impaired patients with creatinine clearances <30 mL/min, the elimination half-life was approximately doubled and the total body clearance was approximately one half (10.5 hours [clearance 150 L/h] compared to 5.8 hours [clearance 260 L/h] in healthy subjects). No effect on Cmax or Tmax was observed after a single dose.

After intravenous administration to patients with hepatic impairment, the elimination half-life of butorphanol was approximately tripled and total body clearance was approximately one half (half-life 16.8 hours, clearance 92 L/h) compared to healthy subjects (half-life 4.8 hours, clearance 175 L/h).

The exposure of hepatically impaired patients to butorphanol was significantly greater (about 2-fold) than that in healthy subjects.

For further recommendations refer to PRECAUTIONS: Hepatic and Renal Disease, Drug Interactions, and Geriatric Use sections and to the CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY: Individualization of Dosage section below.

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