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Oxycontin (Oxycodone Hydrochloride) - Description and Clinical Pharmacology



OxyContin® (oxycodone hydrochloride controlled-release) Tablets are an opioid analgesic supplied in 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, 80 mg, and 160 mg tablet strengths for oral administration. The tablet strengths describe the amount of oxycodone per tablet as the hydrochloride salt. The structural formula for oxycodone hydrochloride is as follows:

The chemical formula is 4, 5α-epoxy-14-hydroxy-3-methoxy-17-methylmorphinan-6-one hydrochloride.

Oxycodone is a white, odorless crystalline powder derived from the opium alkaloid, thebaine. Oxycodone hydrochloride dissolves in water (1 g in 6 to 7 mL). It is slightly soluble in alcohol (octanol water partition coefficient 0.7). The tablets contain the following inactive ingredients: ammonio methacrylate copolymer, hypromellose, lactose, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycol 400, povidone, sodium hydroxide, sorbic acid, stearyl alcohol, talc, titanium dioxide, and triacetin.

The 10 mg tablets also contain: hydroxypropyl cellulose.

The 15 mg tablets also contain: black iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, and red iron oxide.

The 20 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80 and red iron oxide.

The 30 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80, red iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, and black iron oxide.

The 40 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80 and yellow iron oxide.

The 60 mg tablets also contain: polysorbate 80 and FD&C Red No. 40 Aluminum Lake

The 80 mg tablets also contain: FD&C blue No. 2, hydroxypropyl cellulose, and yellow iron oxide.

The 160 mg tablets also contain: FD&C blue No. 2 and polysorbate 80.

OxyContin® 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg Tablets are tested using USP Dissolution Test 2 and meet the associated tolerances provided in Acceptance Table 2 of the Oxycodone Hydrochloride Extended-Release Tablets USP Monograph.

OxyContin® 15 mg, 30 mg, and 60 mg Tablets are not described in the USP but are tested using USP Dissolution Test 2 of the Oxycodone Hydrochloride Extended-Release Tablets USP Monograph.


Oxycodone is a pure agonist opioid whose principal therapeutic action is analgesia. Other members of the class known as opioid agonists include substances such as morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, codeine, and hydrocodone. Pharmacological effects of opioid agonists include anxiolysis, euphoria, feelings of relaxation, respiratory depression, constipation, miosis, and cough suppression, as well as analgesia. Like all pure opioid agonist analgesics, with increasing doses there is increasing analgesia, unlike with mixed agonist/antagonists or non-opioid analgesics, where there is a limit to the analgesic effect with increasing doses. With pure opioid agonist analgesics, there is no defined maximum dose; the ceiling to analgesic effectiveness is imposed only by side effects, the more serious of which may include somnolence and respiratory depression.

Central Nervous System

The precise mechanism of the analgesic action is unknown. However, specific CNS opioid receptors for endogenous compounds with opioid-like activity have been identified throughout the brain and spinal cord and play a role in the analgesic effects of this drug.

Oxycodone 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.

Oxycodone depresses the cough reflex by direct effect on the cough center in the medulla. Antitussive effects may occur with doses lower than those usually required for analgesia.

Oxycodone 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 origin may produce similar findings). Marked mydriasis rather than miosis may be seen with hypoxia in the setting of OxyContin® overdose (See OVERDOSAGE ).

Gastrointestinal Tract And Other Smooth Muscle

Oxycodone 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 gastric, biliary and pancreatic secretions, spasm of sphincter of Oddi, and transient elevations in serum amylase.

Cardiovascular System

Oxycodone may produce release of histamine with or without associated peripheral vasodilation. Manifestations of histamine release and/or peripheral vasodilation may include pruritus, flushing, red eyes, sweating, and/or orthostatic hypotension.

Concentration – Efficacy Relationships

Studies in normal volunteers and patients reveal predictable relationships between oxycodone dosage and plasma oxycodone concentrations, as well as between concentration and certain expected opioid effects, such as pupillary constriction, sedation, overall "drug effect", analgesia and feelings of "relaxation".

As with all opioids, the minimum effective plasma concentration for analgesia will vary widely among patients, especially among patients who have been previously treated with potent agonist opioids. As a result, patients must be treated with individualized titration of dosage to the desired effect. The minimum effective analgesic concentration of oxycodone 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 Experience Relationships

OxyContin® Tablets are associated with typical opioid-related adverse experiences. There is a general relationship between increasing oxycodone plasma concentration and increasing frequency of dose-related opioid adverse experiences such as nausea, vomiting, CNS effects, and respiratory depression. In opioid-tolerant patients, the situation is altered by the development of tolerance to opioid-related side effects, and the relationship is not clinically relevant.

As with all opioids, the dose must be individualized (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION ), because the effective analgesic dose for some patients will be too high to be tolerated by other patients.


The activity of OxyContin Tablets is primarily due to the parent drug oxycodone. OxyContin Tablets are designed to provide controlled delivery of oxycodone over 12 hours.

Cutting, breaking, chewing, crushing or dissolving OxyContin Tablets eliminates the controlled delivery mechanism and results in the rapid release and absorption of a potentially fatal dose of oxycodone.

Oxycodone release from OxyContin Tablets is pH independent. Oxycodone is well absorbed from OxyContin Tablets with an oral bioavailability of 60% to 87%. The relative oral bioavailability of OxyContin to immediate-release oral dosage forms is 100%. Upon repeated dosing in normal volunteers in pharmacokinetic studies, steady-state levels were achieved within 24-36 hours. Dose proportionality and/or bioavailability has been established for the 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, 80 mg, and 160 mg tablet strengths for both peak plasma levels (Cmax) and extent of absorption (AUC). Oxycodone is extensively metabolized and eliminated primarily in the urine as both conjugated and unconjugated metabolites. The apparent elimination half-life of oxycodone following the administration of OxyContin® was 4.5 hours compared to 3.2 hours for immediate-release oxycodone.


About 60% to 87% of an oral dose of oxycodone reaches the central compartment in comparison to a parenteral dose. This high oral bioavailability is due to low pre-systemic and/or first-pass metabolism. In normal volunteers, the t½ of absorption is 0.4 hours for immediate-release oral oxycodone. In contrast, OxyContin Tablets exhibit a biphasic absorption pattern with two apparent absorption half-lives of 0.6 and 6.9 hours, which describes the initial release of oxycodone from the tablet followed by a prolonged release.

Plasma Oxycodone by Time

Dose proportionality has been established for the 10 mg, 20 mg, 40 mg, and 80 mg tablet strengths for both peak plasma concentrations (Cmax) and extent of absorption (AUC) (see Table 1 below). Another study established that the 160 mg tablet is bioequivalent to 2 x 80 mg tablets as well as to 4 x 40 mg for both peak plasma concentrations (Cmax) and extent of absorption (AUC) (see Table 2 below). Given the short half-life of elimination of oxycodone from OxyContin®, steady-state plasma concentrations of oxycodone are achieved within 24-36 hours of initiation of dosing with OxyContin Tablets. In a study comparing 10 mg of OxyContin every 12 hours to 5 mg of immediate-release oxycodone every 6 hours, the two treatments were found to be equivalent for AUC and Cmax, and similar for Cmin (trough) concentrations.

TABLE 1 Mean [% coefficient variation]
Regimen Dosage Form AUC
Trough Conc.
10 mg OxyContin 100.7 [26.6] 10.6 [20.1] 2.7 [44.1] n.a.
20 mg OxyContin 207.5 [35.9] 21.4 [36.6] 3.2 [57.9] n.a.
40 mg OxyContin 423.1 [33.3] 39.3 [34.0] 3.1 [77.4] n.a.
80 mg OxyContin* 1085.5 [32.3] 98.5 [32.1] 2.1 [52.3] n.a.
10 mg OxyContin
   Tablets q12h
103.6 [38.6] 15.1 [31.0] 3.2 [69.5] 7.2 [48.1]
5 mg immediate-
   release q6h
99.0 [36.2] 15.5 [28.8] 1.6 [49.7] 7.4 [50.9]
TABLE 2 Mean [% coefficient variation]
Regimen Dosage Form AUC
Trough Conc.
† for single-dose AUC = AUC0-inf; for multiple-dose AUC = AUC0-T
* data obtained while volunteers received naltrexone which can enhance absorption
4 x 40 mg
1935.3 [34.7] 152.0 [28.9] 2.56 [42.3] n.a.
2 x 80 mg
1859.3 [30.1] 153.4 [25.1] 2.78 [69.3] n.a.
1 x 160 mg
1856.4 [30.5] 156.4 [24.8] 2.54 [36.4] n.a.

OxyContin® is NOT INDICATED FOR RECTAL ADMINISTRATION. Data from a study involving 21 normal volunteers show that OxyContin Tablets administered per rectum resulted in an AUC 39% greater and a Cmax 9% higher than tablets administered by mouth. Therefore, there is an increased risk of adverse events with rectal administration.

Food Effects

Food has no significant effect on the extent of absorption of oxycodone from OxyContin. However, the peak plasma concentration of oxycodone increased by 25% when a OxyContin 160 mg Tablet was administered with a high-fat meal.


Following intravenous administration, the volume of distribution (Vss) for oxycodone was 2.6 L/kg. Oxycodone binding to plasma protein at 37°C and a pH of 7.4 was about 45%. Once absorbed, oxycodone is distributed to skeletal muscle, liver, intestinal tract, lungs, spleen, and brain. Oxycodone has been found in breast milk (see PRECAUTIONS ).


Oxycodone hydrochloride is extensively metabolized to noroxycodone, oxymorphone, noroxymorphone, and their glucuronides. The major circulating metabolite is noroxycodone. Noroxycodone is reported to be a considerably weaker analgesic than oxycodone. Oxymorphone, although possessing analgesic activity, is present in the plasma only in low concentrations. The correlation between oxymorphone concentrations and opioid effects was much less than that seen with oxycodone plasma concentrations. The analgesic activity profile of other metabolites is not known.

CYP3A mediated N-demethylation (to noroxycodone) is the primary metabolic pathway of oxycodone with a lower contribution from CYP2D6 mediated O-demethylation (to oxymorphone). Therefore, the formation of these and related metabolites can, in theory, be affected by other drugs (see Drug-Drug Interactions ).


Oxycodone and its metabolites are excreted primarily via the kidney. The amounts measured in the urine have been reported as follows: free oxycodone up to 19%; conjugated oxycodone up to 50%; free oxymorphone 0%; conjugated oxymorphone ≤ 14%; both free and conjugated noroxycodone have been found in the urine but not quantified. The total plasma clearance was 0.8 L/min for adults.

Special Populations


The plasma concentrations of oxycodone are only nominally affected by age, being 15% greater in elderly as compared to young subjects.


Female subjects have, on average, plasma oxycodone concentrations up to 25% higher than males on a body weight adjusted basis. The reason for this difference is unknown.

Renal Impairment

Data from a pharmacokinetic study involving 13 patients with mild to severe renal dysfunction (creatinine clearance <60 mL/min) show peak plasma oxycodone and noroxycodone concentrations 50% and 20% higher, respectively, and AUC values for oxycodone, noroxycodone, and oxymorphone 60%, 50%, and 40% higher than normal subjects, respectively. This is accompanied by an increase in sedation but not by differences in respiratory rate, pupillary constriction, or several other measures of drug effect. There was an increase in t½ of elimination for oxycodone of only 1 hour (see PRECAUTIONS ).

Hepatic Impairment

Data from a study involving 24 patients with mild to moderate hepatic dysfunction show peak plasma oxycodone and noroxycodone concentrations 50% and 20% higher, respectively, than normal subjects. AUC values are 95% and 65% higher, respectively. Oxymorphone peak plasma concentrations and AUC values are lower by 30% and 40%. These differences are accompanied by increases in some, but not other, drug effects. The t½ elimination for oxycodone increased by 2.3 hours (see PRECAUTIONS ).

Drug-Drug Interactions (see PRECAUTIONS)

CYP3A mediated N-demethylation is the principal metabolic pathway of oxycodone with a lower contribution from CYP2D6 mediated O-demethylation and can be affected by drugs affecting cytochrome P450 enzymes. Drugs that inhibit CYP3A4 activity, such as macrolide antibiotics (e.g., erythromycin), azole-antifungal agents (e.g., ketoconazole), and protease inhibitors (e.g., ritonavir), may cause decreased clearance of oxycodone which could lead to an increase in oxycodone plasma concentrations. For example, a published study showed that the co-administration of the antifungal drug, voriconazole, increased oxycodone AUC and Cmax by 3.6 and 1.7 fold, respectively. Similarly, CYP450 inducers, such as rifampin, carbamazepine, and phenytoin, may induce the metabolism of oxycodone and, therefore, may cause increased clearance of the drug which could lead to a decrease in oxycodone plasma concentrations, lack of efficacy or, possibly, development of an abstinence syndrome in a patient who had developed physical dependence to oxycodone. A published study showed that the co-administration of rifampin, a drug metabolizing enzyme inducer, decreased oxycodone (oral) AUC and Cmax by 86% and 63%, respectively.

Oxycodone is metabolized in part by cytochrome P450 2D6 to oxymorphone which represents less than 15% of the total administered dose. This route of elimination may be blocked by a variety of drugs (e.g., certain cardiovascular drugs including amiodarone and quinidine as well as polycyclic anti-depressants). However, in a study involving 10 subjects using quinidine, a known inhibitor of cytochrome P450 2D6, the pharmacodynamic effects of oxycodone were unchanged. The genetic expression of CYP2D6 may have some influence in the pharmacokinetic properties of oxycodone.

The in vitro drug-drug interaction studies with noroxymorphone using human liver microsomes showed no significant inhibition of CYP2D6 and CYP3A4 activities which suggests that noroxymorphone may not alter the metabolism of other drugs that are metabolized by CYP2D6 and CYP3A4, and such blockade has not been shown to be of clinical significance with oxycodone.


A single-dose, double-blind, placebo- and dose-controlled study was conducted using OxyContin® (10, 20, and 30 mg) in an analgesic pain model involving 182 patients with moderate to severe pain. Twenty and 30 mg of OxyContin were superior in reducing pain compared with placebo, and this difference was statistically significant. The onset of analgesic action with OxyContin occurred within 1 hour in most patients following oral administration.


A double-blind placebo-controlled, fixed-dose, parallel group, two-week study was conducted in 133 patients with chronic, moderate to severe pain, who were judged as having inadequate pain control with their current therapy. In this study, 20 mg OxyContin q12h but not 10 mg OxyContin q12h decreased pain compared with placebo, and this difference was statistically significant.

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