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Metoclopramide stimulates motility of the upper gastrointestinal tract without stimulating gastric, biliary, or pancreatic secretions. Its mode of action is unclear. It seems to sensitize tissues to the action of acetylcholine. The effect of metoclopramide on motility is not dependent on intact vagal innervation, but it can be abolished by anticholinergic drugs.
Metoclopramide increases the tone and amplitude of gastric (especially antral) contractions, relaxes the pyloric sphincter and the duodenal bulb, and increases peristalsis of the duodenum and jejunum resulting in accelerated gastric emptying and intestinal transit. It increases the resting tone of the lower esophageal sphincter. It has little, if any, effect on the motility of the colon or gallbladder.
In patients with gastroesophageal reflux and low LESP (lower esophageal sphincter pressure), single oral doses of metoclopramide produce dose-related increases in LESP. Effects begin at about 5 mg and increase through 20 mg (the largest dose tested). The increase in LESP from a 5 mg dose lasts about 45 minutes and that of 20 mg lasts between 2 and 3 hours. Increased rate of stomach emptying has been observed with single oral doses of 10 mg.
The antiemetic properties of metoclopramide appear to be a result of its antagonism of central and peripheral dopamine receptors. Dopamine produces nausea and vomiting by stimulation of the medullary chemoreceptor trigger zone (CTZ), and metoclopramide blocks stimulation of the CTZ by agents like l-dopa or apomorphine which are known to increase dopamine levels or to possess dopamine-like effects. Metoclopramide also abolishes the slowing of gastric emptying caused by apomorphine.
Like the phenothiazines and related drugs, which are also dopamine antagonists, metoclopramide produces sedation and may produce extrapyramidal reactions, although these are comparatively rare (see WARNINGS). Metoclopramide inhibits the central and peripheral effects of apomorphine, induces release of prolactin and causes a transient increase in circulating aldosterone levels, which may be associated with transient fluid retention.
The onset of pharmacological action of metoclopramide is 1 to 3 minutes following an intravenous dose, 10 to 15 minutes following intramuscular administration, and 30 to 60 minutes following an oral dose; pharmacological effects persist for 1 to 2 hours.
Metoclopramide is rapidly and well absorbed. Relative to an intravenous dose of 20 mg, the absolute oral bioavailability of metoclopramide is 80% ± 15.5% as demonstrated in a crossover study of 18 subjects. Peak plasma concentrations occur at about 1-2 hr after a single oral dose. Similar time to peak is observed after individual doses at steady state.
In a single dose study of 12 subjects, the area under the drug concentration-time curve increases linearly with doses from 20 to 100 mg. Peak concentrations increase linearly with dose; time to peak concentrations remains the same; whole body clearance is unchanged; and the elimination rate remains the same. The average elimination half-life in individuals with normal renal function is 5-6 hr. Linear kinetic processes adequately describe the absorption and elimination of metoclopramide.
Approximately 85% of the radioactivity of an orally administered dose appears in the urine within 72 hr. Of the 85% eliminated in the urine, about half is present as free or conjugated metoclopramide.
The drug is not extensively bound to plasma proteins (about 30%). The whole body volume of distribution is high (about 3.5 L/kg) which suggests extensive distribution of drug to the tissues.
Renal impairment affects the clearance of metoclopramide. In a study with patients with varying degrees of renal impairment, a reduction in creatinine clearance was correlated with a reduction in plasma clearance, renal clearance, non-renal clearance, and increase in elimination half-life. The kinetics of metoclopramide in the presence of renal impairment remained linear however. The reduction in clearance as a result of renal impairment suggests that adjustment downward of maintenance dosage should be done to avoid drug accumulation.
Adult Pharmacokinetic Data
|Vd (L/kg)||~ 3.5|
|Plasma Protein Binding||~ 30%|
|Oral Bioavailability||80% ± 15.5%|
In pediatric patients, the pharmacodynamics of metoclopramide following oral and intravenous administration are highly variable and a concentration-effect relationship has not been established.
There are insufficient reliable data to conclude whether the pharmacokinetics of metoclopramide in adults and the pediatric population are similar. Although there are insufficient data to support the efficacy of metoclopramide in pediatric patients with symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or cancer chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, its pharmacokinetics have been studied in these patient populations.
In an open-label study, six pediatric patients (age range, 3.5 weeks to 5.4 months) with GER received a metoclopramide 0.15 mg/kg oral solution every 6 hours for 10 doses. The mean peak plasma concentration of metoclopramide after the tenth dose was 2-fold (56.8 µg/L) higher compared to that observed after the first dose (29 µg/L) indicating drug accumulation with repeated dosing. After the tenth dose, the mean time to reach peak concentrations (2.2 hr), half-life (4.1 hr), clearance (0.67 L/h/kg), and volume of distribution (4.4 L/kg) of metoclopramide were similar to those observed after the first dose. In the youngest patient (age, 3.5 weeks), metoclopramide half-life after the first and the tenth dose (23.1 and 10.3 hr, respectively) was significantly longer compared to other infants due to reduced clearance. This may be attributed to immature hepatic and renal systems at birth.
Single intravenous doses of metoclopramide 0.22 to 0.46 mg/kg (mean, 0.35 mg/kg) were administered over 5 minutes to 9 pediatric cancer patients receiving chemotherapy (mean age, 11.7 years; range, 7 to 14 yr) for prophylaxis of cytotoxic-induced vomiting. The metoclopramide plasma concentrations extrapolated to time zero ranged from 65 to 395 µg/L (mean, 152 µg/L). The mean elimination half-life, clearance, and volume of distribution of metoclopramide were 4.4 hr (range, 1.7 to 8.3 hr), 0.56 L/h/kg (range, 0.12 to 1.20 L/h/kg), and 3.0 L/kg (range, 1.0 to 4.8 L/kg), respectively.
In another study, nine pediatric cancer patients (age range, 1 to 9 yr) received 4 to 5 intravenous infusions (over 30 minutes) of metoclopramide at a dose of 2 mg/kg to control emesis. After the last dose, the peak serum concentrations of metoclopramide ranged from 1060 to 5680 µg/L. The mean elimination half-life, clearance, and volume of distribution of metoclopramide were 4.5 hr (range, 2.0 to 12.5 hr), 0.37 L/h/kg (range, 0.10 to 1.24 L/h/kg), and 1.93 L/kg (range, 0.95 to 5.50 L/kg), respectively.
Pediatric Pharmacokinetic Studies
|Reference||Dose, Route||t½ (hr)||Cl (L/hr/kg)||Vd (L/kg)||Cmax (µg/L)|
|1.||0.35 mg/kg, IV over 5 min||4.4 + 0.56||0.56 + 0.10||3.0 ± 0.38 (Dose/Cp0)||152 + 31|
|2.||2 mg/kg 30 min IV infusion 4-5 times within 9.5 hours||4.5a||0.37a||1.93a||1060 to 5680a|
a SEM not available.
1. Bateman, DN, et al. Br J Clin Pharmac 15:557-559, 1983.
2. Ford, C. Clin Pharmac Ther 43:196, 1988.
Last reviewed on RxList: 8/13/2009
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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