October 21, 2016
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Oxycodone hydrochloride is a full opioid agonist and is relatively selective for the mu receptor, although it can bind to other opioid receptors at higher doses. The principal therapeutic action of oxycodone is analgesia. Like all full opioid agonists, there is no ceiling effect to analgesia for oxycodone. Clinically, dosage is titrated to provide adequate analgesia and may be limited by adverse reactions, including respiratory and CNS depression.

Mechanism Of Action

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 are thought to play a role in the analgesic effects of this drug.


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. OXYCONTIN doses of 20 mg and 30 mg produced statistically significant pain reduction compared to placebo.

Effects On The Central Nervous System

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 CO2 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 oxycodone overdose [see OVERDOSAGE].

Effects On The 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.

Effects On The 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.

Effects On The Endocrine System

Opioids inhibit the secretion of ACTH, cortisol, testosterone, and luteinizing hormone (LH) in humans. They also stimulate prolactin, growth hormone (GH) secretion, and pancreatic secretion of insulin and glucagon.

Effects On The Immune System

Opioids have been shown to have a variety of effects on components of the immune system in in vitro and animal models. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown. Overall, the effects of opioids appear to be modestly immunosuppressive.

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 subjective “drug effect”, analgesia and feelings of relaxation.

The minimum effective analgesic concentration 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 Reaction Relationships

There is a relationship between increasing oxycodone plasma concentration and increasing frequency of dose-related opioid adverse reactions such as nausea, vomiting, CNS effects, and respiratory depression. In opioid-tolerant patients, the situation may be altered by the development of tolerance to opioid-related side effects.

The dose of OXYCONTIN must be individualized because the effective analgesic dose for some patients will be too high to be tolerated by other patients [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION].


The activity of OXYCONTIN is primarily due to the parent drug oxycodone. OXYCONTIN is designed to provide delivery of oxycodone over 12 hours. Cutting, breaking, chewing, crushing or dissolving OXYCONTIN impairs the controlled-release delivery mechanism and results in the rapid release and absorption of a potentially fatal dose of oxycodone.

Oxycodone release from OXYCONTIN is pH independent. The oral bioavailability of oxycodone is 60% to 87%. The relative oral bioavailability of oxycodone from OXYCONTIN to that from immediate-release oral dosage forms is 100%. Upon repeated dosing with OXYCONTIN in healthy subjects in pharmacokinetic studies, steady-state levels were achieved within 24-36 hours. Oxycodone is extensively metabolized and eliminated primarily in the urine as both conjugated and unconjugated metabolites. The apparent elimination half-life (t½) 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.

Plasma Oxycodone Concentration Over Time

Dose proportionality has been established for OXYCONTIN 10 mg, 15 mg, 20 mg, 30 mg, 40 mg, 60 mg, and 80 mg tablet strengths for both peak plasma concentrations (Cmax) and extent of absorption (AUC) (see Table 5). Given the short elimination t of oxycodone, steady-state plasma concentrations of oxycodone are achieved within 24-36 hours of initiation of dosing with OXYCONTIN. 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 5 : Mean [% coefficient of variation]

Regimen Dosage Form AUC (ng•hr/mL)* Cmax (ng/mL) Tmax (hr)
Single Dose† 10 mg 136 [27] 11.5 [27] 5.11 [21]
15 mg 196 [28] 16.8 [29] 4.59 [19]
20 mg 248 [25] 22.7 [25] 4.63 [22]
30 mg 377 [24] 34.6 [21] 4.61 [19]
40 mg 497 [27] 47.4 [30] 4.40 [22]
6 0 mg 705 [22] 64.6 [24] 4.15 [26]
80 mg 908 [21] 87.1 [29] 4.27 [26]
* for single-dose AUC = AUC0-inf
†data obtained while subjects received naltrexone, which can enhance absorption

Food Effects

Food has no significant effect on the extent of absorption of oxycodone from OXYCONTIN.


Following intravenous administration, the steady-state 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 Use in Specific Populations].


Oxycodone is extensively metabolized by multiple metabolic pathways to produce noroxycodone, oxymorphone and noroxymorphone, which are subsequently glucuronidated. Noroxycodone and noroxymorphone are the major circulating metabolites. 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 INTERACTIONS].

Noroxycodone exhibits very weak anti-nociceptive potency compared to oxycodone, however, it undergoes further oxidation to produce noroxymorphone, which is active at opioid receptors. Although noroxymorphone is an active metabolite and present at relatively high concentrations in circulation, it does not appear to cross the blood-brain barrier to a significant extent. Oxymorphone is present in the plasma only at low concentrations and undergoes further metabolism to form its glucuronide and noroxymorphone. Oxymorphone has been shown to be active and possessing analgesic activity but its contribution to analgesia following oxycodone administration is thought to be clinically insignificant. Other metabolites (α- and -oxycodol, noroxycodol and oxymorphol) may be present at very low concentrations and demonstrate limited penetration into the brain as compared to oxycodone. The enzymes responsible for keto-reduction and glucuronidation pathways in oxycodone metabolism have not been established.


Oxycodone and its metabolites are excreted primarily via the kidney. The amounts measured in the urine have been reported as follows: free and conjugated oxycodone 8.9%, free noroxycodone 23%, free oxymorphone less than 1%, conjugated oxymorphone 10%, free and conjugated noroxymorphone 14%, reduced free and conjugated metabolites up to 18%. The total plasma clearance was approximately 1.4 L/min in adults.

Specific Populations

Geriatric Use

The plasma concentrations of oxycodone are only nominally affected by age, being 15% greater in elderly as compared to young subjects (age 21-45).


Across individual pharmacokinetic studies, average plasma oxycodone concentrations for female subjects were up to 25% higher than for male subjects on a body weight-adjusted basis. The reason for this difference is unknown [see Use in Specific Populations ].

Renal Impairment

Data from a pharmacokinetic study involving 13 patients with mild to severe renal dysfunction (creatinine clearance < 60 mL/min) showed 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 was 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 mean elimination t for oxycodone of 1 hour.

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 healthy 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 mean elimination t½ for oxycodone increased by 2.3 hours.

Pediatric Use

In the pediatric age group of 11 years of age and older, systemic exposure of oxycodone is expected to be similar to adults at any given dose of OXYCONTIN.

Drug-Drug Interactions

CYP3A4 Inhibitors

CYP3A4 is the major isoenzyme involved in noroxycodone formation. Co-administration of OXYCONTIN (10 mg single dose) and the CYP3A4 inhibitor ketoconazole (200 mg BID) increased oxycodone AUC and Cmax by 170% and 100%, respectively [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].

CYP3A4 Inducers

A published study showed that the co-administration of rifampin, a drug metabolizing enzyme inducer, decreased oxycodone AUC and Cmax values by 86% and 63%, respectively [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].

CYP2D6 Inhibitors

Oxycodone is metabolized in part to oxymorphone via CYP2D6. While this pathway may be blocked by a variety of drugs such as certain cardiovascular drugs (e.g., quinidine) and antidepressants (e.g., fluoxetine), such blockade has not been shown to be of clinical significance with OXYCONTIN [see DRUG INTERACTIONS].

Clinical Studies

Adult Clinical Study

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

Pediatric Clinical Study

OXYCONTIN has been evaluated in an open-label clinical trial of 155 opioid-tolerant pediatric patients with moderate to severe chronic pain. The mean duration of therapy was 20.7 days (range 1 to 43 days). The starting total daily doses ranged from 20 mg to 100 mg based on the patient's prior opioid dose. The mean daily dose was 33.30 mg (range 20 to 140 mg/day). In an extension study, 23 of the 155 patients were treated beyond four weeks, including 13 for 28 weeks. Too few patients less than 11 years were enrolled in the clinical trial to provide meaningful safety data in this age group.

Last reviewed on RxList: 9/1/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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