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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 38

of 'Pain assessment and management in the last weeks of life'

Estimation of methadone clearance: application in the management of cancer pain.
Plummer JL, Gourlay GK, Cherry DA, Cousins MJ
Pain. 1988;33(3):313.
The long half-life and wide inter-patient variability in clearance of methadone make this drug difficult to use optimally. If a patient's methadone clearance is known, however, dose regimens can be devised to maintain any desired blood concentration and hence, since the effect of methadone is related to its concentration in the blood, pain relief. We investigated methods for determining methadone clearance. In 25 patients, clearance was estimated by monitoring blood methadone concentrations following an intravenous infusion. Estimates of clearance adequate for clinical purposes could be obtained by assaying only 10-12 blood samples collected over 30 h following the infusion. The blood sampling schedules were such that it was not necessary to collect samples during the night, so the procedure could be done on an outpatient basis. An advantage of this procedure is that it also allows estimation of the blood methadone concentration required to relieve pain. We also conducted a retrospective study of data from 185 patients whose methadone clearance we had determined, to identify factors which may give rise to the large inter-patient variation in clearance. Clearance tended to be high in patients taking phenytoin, spironolactone, verapamil or oestrogens, and low in patients taking amitriptyline. Patients with malignant disease as opposed to chronic benign pain, and patients 65 years of age or older, tended to have low clearance. Clearance was positively associated with haematocrit. An equation was constructed allowing methadone clearance to be predicted from knowledge of these factors. The predicted clearance, however, showed only a moderately strong correlation with measured clearance (r = 0.75), indicating that factors not investigated also had a major influence on methadone clearance.
Pain Management Unit, Flinders Medical Centre, Bedford Park, SA, Australia.