Vivitrex, an injectable, extended-release formulation of naltrexone, provides pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic evidence of efficacy for 1 month in rats
Bartus RT, Emerich DF, Hotz J,
Blaustein M, Dean RL, Perdomo B, Basile AS.
Alkermes, Inc, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003 Nov;28(11):1973-82.


While oral naltrexone is effective in treating alcohol and opiate dependencies, poor patient adherence and widely fluctuating plasma levels limit its efficacy. To overcome these problems, an extended-release formulation of naltrexone (Vivitrex) was developed by encapsulating naltrexone into injectable, biodegradable polymer microspheres. Pharmacokinetic studies in rats demonstrated that this formulation produced stable, pharmacologically relevant plasma levels of naltrexone for approximately 1 month following either subcutaneous or intramuscular injections. While rats receiving placebo microspheres demonstrated a pronounced analgesic response to morphine in the hot-plate test, morphine analgesia was completely blocked in rats treated with extended-release naltrexone. This antagonism began on day 1 following administration and lasted for 28 days. Rats reinjected with extended-release naltrexone 34 days after the initial dose and tested for another 35 days showed consistent suppression of morphine analgesia for an additional 28 days. mu-Opioid receptor density, as measured by [(3)H]DAMGO autoradiography, increased up to two-fold following a single injection of extended-release naltrexone. Saturation binding assays using [(3)H]DAMGO showed changes in the midbrain and striatum at 1 week after extended-release naltrexone administration, and after 1 month in the neocortex. These receptor increases persisted for 2-4 weeks after dissipation of the morphine antagonist actions of naltrexone. These data suggest that therapeutically relevant plasma levels of naltrexone can be maintained using monthly injections of an extended-release microsphere formulation, and that changes in mu-opioid receptor density do not impact its efficacy in suppressing morphine-induced analgesia in the rat. Clinical trials of extended release naltrexone for treating alcohol and opiate dependency are currently ongoing.
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