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Mechanism Of Action

Ziconotide binds to N-type calcium channels located on the primary nociceptive (A-d and C) afferent nerves in the superficial layers (Rexed laminae I and II) of the dorsal horn in the spinal cord. Although the mechanism of action of ziconotide has not been established in humans, results in animals suggest that its binding blocks N-type calcium channels, which leads to a blockade of excitatory neurotransmitter release from the primary afferent nerve terminals and antinociception.


Interaction With Opioids

Ziconotide does not bind to opioid receptors and its pharmacological effects are not blocked by opioid antagonists. In animal models, intrathecal ziconotide potentiated opioid-induced reduction in gastrointestinal (GI) motility, but did not potentiate morphine-induced respiratory depression. In rats receiving ziconotide, additive analgesic effects were observed with concurrent administration of morphine, baclofen, or clonidine. Concurrent administration of intrathecal ziconotide and morphine did not prevent the development of morphine tolerance in rats.


The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pharmacokinetics (PK) of ziconotide have been studied after one-hour intrathecal infusions of 1 to 10 mcg of PRIALT to patients with chronic pain. The plasma PK following intravenous infusion (0.3 to 10 mcg/kg/day) have also been studied. Both intrathecal and intravenous data are shown below (Table 2).

Table 2: PRIALT PK Parameters (Mean ± SD)

Route Fluid N CL (mL/min) Vd (mL) T ½ elim (hr)
Intrathecal CSF 23 0.38 ± 0.56 155 ± 263 4.6 ± 0.9
Intravenous Plasma 21 270 ± 44 30,460 ± 6366 1.3 ± 0.3

Following one-hour intrathecal administration of 1 to 10 mcg of PRIALT, both total exposure (AUC; range: 83.6 to 608 ng•h/ mL) and peak exposure (Cmax; range: 16.4 to 132 ng/mL) values in the CSF were variable and dose-dependent, but appeared approximately dose-proportional. During 5 or 6 days of continuous intrathecal infusions of PRIALT at infusion rates ranging from 0.1 to 7.0 mcg/hr in patients with chronic pain, plasma ziconotide levels could not be quantified in 56% of patients using an assay with a lower limit of detection of approximately 0.04 ng/mL. Predictably, patients requiring higher intrathecal infusion dose rates were more likely to have quantifiable ziconotide levels in plasma. Plasma ziconotide levels, when detectable, remain constant after many months of intrathecal PRIALT infusion in patients followed for up to 9 months.


Ziconotide is about 50% bound to human plasma proteins. The mean CSF volume of distribution (Vd) of ziconotide following intrathecal administration approximates the estimated total CSF volume (140 mL).


Ziconotide is cleaved by endopeptidases and exopeptidases at multiple sites on the peptide. Following passage from the CSF into the systemic circulation during continuous intrathecal administration, ziconotide is expected to be susceptible to proteolytic cleavage by various ubiquitous peptidases/proteases present in most organs (e.g., kidney, liver, lung, muscle, etc.), and thus readily degraded to peptide fragments and their individual constituent free amino acids. Human and animal CSF and blood exhibit minimal hydrolytic activity toward ziconotide in vitro. The biological activity of the various expected proteolytic degradation products of ziconotide has not been assessed.


Minimal amounts of ziconotide ( < 1%) were recovered in human urine following intravenous infusion. The terminal half-life of ziconotide in CSF after an intrathecal administration was around 4.6 hours (range 2.9 to 6.5 hours). Mean CSF clearance (CL) of ziconotide approximates adult human CSF turnover rate (0.3 to 0.4 mL/min).

Special Populations

No formal studies were conducted to assess the effect of demographic factors (age, race, gender, and weight), renal or hepatic dysfunction, or to assess the effect of concomitant drugs on the pharmacokinetics of ziconotide due to the low systemic exposure of ziconotide following intrathecal administration.

Clinical Studies

The efficacy of intrathecal PRIALT in the management of severe chronic pain was studied in three double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter studies in a total of 457 patients (268 PRIALT, 189 placebo) using two different titration schedules. The slow titration schedule tested dose increases 2 to 3 times per week with a maximum dose of 19.2 mcg/day (0.8 mcg/hr) at 21 days. The fast titration schedule used daily increases up to a maximum dose of 57.6 mcg/day (2.4 mcg/hr) in 5 to 6 days but resulted in less tolerability and substantially more frequent adverse events.

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of PRIALT was conducted in adult patients with severe chronic pain not adequately controlled with intrathecally delivered analgesics including morphine, bupivacaine and/or clonidine; or who were intolerant to analgesics and/or systemic analgesics using the 21-day slow titration schedule. All prior intrathecal medications were discontinued over a one to three week period, and patients were maintained on a stable regimen of non-intrathecal analgesics, including opiates, for at least 7 days prior to randomization. Dosing with PRIALT was started at 2.4 mcg/day (0.1 mcg/hr) and the dose was increased by 2.4 mcg/day (0.1 mcg/hr) two to three times/week (minimum titration interval 24 hours) to a maximum dose of 19.2 mcg/day (0.8 mcg/hr) as needed for management of pain. The final mean dose at the end of the trial at 21 days was 6.9 mcg/day (0.29 mcg/hr).

Using a 100 mm Visual Analog Scale of Pain Intensity (VASPI) where 100 mm represented the worst possible pain, mean baseline pain scores were 81 in both the PRIALT and placebo groups. The primary efficacy variable was the mean percent change in the VASPI score from baseline to day 21. In the intent-to-treat efficacy analysis, there was a statistically significant difference between groups in the mean percent change in VASPI score from baseline with the PRIALT group having a 12% mean improvement at Week 3 compared to a 5% mean improvement in the placebo group. The 95% confidence interval for the treatment difference (PRIALT– placebo) was 0.4%, 13%.

The effect of intrathecal PRIALT on pain was variable over the time period of treatment for some patients. Patients exhibited various degrees of improvement in pain after three weeks of treatment compared with baseline pain assessment. Figure 1 depicts the fraction of patients by their degree of improvement. The figure is cumulative, so that patients whose change from baseline is, for example, 30%, are also included at every level of improvement below 30%. Patients who did not have a VASPI score recorded at Week 3 (Study days 17–23, inclusive) were assigned 0% improvement. The improvement in the proportion of “responders,” defined as having a ≥ 30% improvement from baseline in VASPI, was 16% in the PRIALT group compared to 12% in the placebo group, for a net difference of 4%. The use of non-intrathecal opioids decreased by 24% in the PRIALT group and by 17% in the placebo group.

Figure 1: Patients Achieving Various Levels of Pain Relief from Baseline to Week 3

Patients Achieving Various Levels of Pain
Relief from Baseline to Week 3 - Illustration

Laboratory Tests

Monitor serum CK in patients undergoing treatment with PRIALT periodically (e.g., every other week for the first month and monthly as appropriate thereafter). Evaluate patients clinically and obtain CK measurements in the setting of new neuromuscular symptoms (e.g., myalgias, myasthenia, muscle cramps, asthenia) or a reduction in physical activity. If these symptoms continue and CK levels remain elevated or continue to rise, reduce the dose or discontinue the use of PRIALT.

Last reviewed on RxList: 4/5/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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